Vancouver’s 1986 world fair had a lot going for it: the Great Hall of Ramses the II, Bill Cosby, a UFO-themed waterpark, a century-old railway roundhouse, Miles Davis, a riot, and Jacques Cousteau were all there. Now that it has also retroactively been given the distinction of bringing Wolf Parade together, it can safely be added to the list of “best summers ever.”
Whether the story of the band’s five members meeting at the Expo and agreeing to meet up almost 15 years later is true or not, the throwback parallels the youthful energy present throughout Expo 86. The band used a live recording process similar to what singer Spencer Krug used while recording his last Sunset Rubdown album, and it translates into a genuine sense of urgent, manic intensity and perhaps most importantly, danceability.
The album feels like a unified effort by a band who is exceedingly comfortable working together. At Mount Zoomer didn’t always manage this, and at times felt more like Dan Boeckner and Krug were content to swap songwriting duties from song to song. It didn’t make for a terrible album, but it definitely makes for a better one when the two songwriters are able to work together fluently. A symptom of the unified approach – everyone gets to lead. Most of the notable solos are the work of Dante DeCaro who, according to lore, had to stand firm for his place as one of the band’s guitarists. He was five at the Expo, “only little,” so he had to promise to practice “lots of wicked solos,” and it shows. The music is thick with musical and lyrical layers, sometimes with three guitars stacked into the mix. “Maximalism”, as the band calls it, at its finest.
Expo 86 is a party album. Put it on when you want to fill a room with a sense of frenetic energy, or when you want to feel restless and the world needs to be absolutely brimming with possibilities, or when you simply want to dance. This album is proof of why Wolf Parade is worthy of all of the acclaim we heap upon them.
Trial Track: “What Did My Lover Say (It Always Had to Go This Way)” is available for streaming on Pitchfork’s website. The album is due for release June 29.