Though ten years have passed since its release, Apologies to the Queen Mary remains a treat.
Apologies to the Queen Mary, the stellar Sub Pop debut from Montreal’s very own Wolf Parade, assembles grandiose pop sensibilities with punk-inflected indie rock.
This might sound like a familiar template for anyone who’s read a pretentious music blog, but appraising the album’s surface negates the mammoth ambitions found inside. Just give the record time—fixate on its influences, absorb each track, fold back the edges and you’ll find an all-inclusive survey of every emotion you’ve ever had. Only this time, the experience is soundtracked by sheer musical ecstasy.
Before the record’s release in September 2005, Wolf Parade fell victim to hype—a contradiction that has plagued Canadian music for years. With a name like Isaac Brock (better known as the sonic architect and brainchild of Modest Mouse) behind the mixing board, it’s clear that the Montreal import had a lot going for them, as well as an equally high bar to live up to.
Throughout the record, Wolf Parade roll out incendiary piano-hooks like a bat out of hell, but they retain the subdued confidence of such established veteran bands as label mates Dinosaur Jr. That gentle attention to detail established Wolf Parade as a formidable force against other indie-rock contenders.
Even in the face of such high expectations, the band prevailed with flying colors, garnering traction from post-punk purists and indie-rock teenyboppers alike. Ignoring the Pitchfork “Best New Music” seal of approval, Apologies to the Queen Mary is an exceedingly special album that has launched Wolf Parade into a storied musical lineage. Few records, let alone debuts, exhibit such meticulously calculated and controlled musical prowess.
The record recently turned 10 and while the collective had been riding high up until their indefinite hiatus in 2011, it’s interesting to speculate how well Queen Mary sits with today’s digital age demographic. Stylistically, the record epitomizes that early 2000 era of post-punk revivalism, flexing components of fidgety guitars, glitchy synths, and spastic vocal deliveries. In other words, Queen Mary rigidly adheres to the signature Modest Mouse formula.
It’s easy to pull comparisons, but when Wolf Parade take familiar pop tropes and contort them into a triumphantly energetic musical pastiche, the result is hot to the touch. The invigorating sing-song choruses, brought to you by dual vocalists Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug, are absolute blessings to the ears. Krug exhibits the unhinged cadences of Lennon whereas Boeckner prefers a more bridled, McCartney-esque approach. When combined, the duality is seamless. The team’s meticulous sense of structure and attention to harmony has forged prominent solo careers for both; Krug has since released a handful of lauded albums under the Moonface moniker while Boeckner has endured success in such bands as Handsome Furs and Divine Fits. Queen Mary spotlights just how well these two can carry a tune.
The consistency of each track find Wolf Parade sharing a commonality with the fickle music listeners of today—“make them come to you and never let up.” The urgency of “We Built
Another World,” the buoyancy of “I’ll Believe In Anything” and the spectral saunter of “Same Ghost Every Night” comprise the album’s accessible pop appeal, but the sticky melodies are intricate and energetic enough to keep listeners engaged for years. In other words, Wolf Parade’s debut serves as a remarkably fruitful listen, endless in its replay value. Though the band is sadly no more, their legacy nonetheless lives on.
Those unfamiliar with Apologies to the Queen Mary’s pivotal stature might be quick to dismiss it as tired hipster fodder but the record’s patient ascent from poised debut to cardinal indie gem is hard to ignore. It’s what happens when hype works in a band’s favour and what’s resulted is the gold standard exemplar for modern indie music—a lasting, anthemic, and transcendent work indeed.