Wolf Parade hit the ground running with a self-titled EP and the full length Apologies To The Queen Mary three years ago, and then seemed to kind of go their separate ways and leave everyone hanging a bit. Along with his fiancee, Dan Boekner released an album as Handsome Furs (Plague Park), while Spencer Krug joined up with Sunset Rubdown for a second installment (Random Spirit Lover. Their follow-up has been talked-about for some time now (and has gone through at least one name change), and it's certainly not as immediate as their past work.
Although nine songs run about forty-seven minutes, this is an album that definitely feels more sprawling than that. It actually opens with some of its more concise work, sinking some pop hooks in early before relaxing the grip and even confounding in places. "Soldier's Grin" kicks things off and feels very familiar, as multi-part synths shimmer over the top of dry, gritty guitar, and some blistering blowouts while Boeckner adds his usual breathless yelp. "Call It A Ritual" finds Krug on lead vocals, and the shorter track shuffles with a delicious swagger that mingles jangling guitars and thick, fuzzed-out guitars.
With the arrival of "Bang Your Drum," the album starts to feel a bit more disjointed, though. On the shorter tracks where Krug takes over lead vocals (which is basically every-other one), the group definitely takes on more of a jaunty pop feel that sounds much closer to Sunset Rubdown than past work. Alternately, the longer tracks in-between (with Boeckner on vocals) turn down the power a bit and tend to work a more modest mid-tempo rock range that only finds them really blowing out the cobwebs in a couple places (the end of "California Dreamer" has some short fireworks).
There are two reasons the album feels a little bit longer than it actually is, and the first is that unlike Apologies To The Queen Mary, there aren't really any big singles here. Maybe one of the first two songs on the release could get caught in peoples head on a good day, but the group is far less anthematic on this release, with less immediate hooks and sheer propulsion. They also save the longest song for last, as "Kissing The Beehive" closes things out with almost eleven minutes of epic rock that blends in everything from prog to their usual stomp while not really delivering enough payoff to make it worthwhile. Oddly enough, that's how much of At Mount Zoomer plays out in general. This one's a bit of a letdown.