Wolf Parade have always been unique within Canada's indie rock old guard. Lacking the community spirit of Broken Social Scene and the New Pornographers, the pop melodrama of Stars or the mass appeal of Arcade Fire, the Montreal four-piece have nevertheless earned their place in the canon through sheer tenacity. After a half-decade hiatus and a warm-up EP, the band are back with an enjoyable, if not world-shaking new offering that justifies their position as Canadian indie's great eccentrics.
Wolf Parade's x-factor has always been the interplay between its two singer-songwriters, keyboardist Spencer Krug and guitarist Dan Boeckner. Past albums have balanced Krug's manic Bowie-isms against Boeckner's Strummer-Springsteen cool, making for dramatic, spellbinding rock'n'roll.
However, Cry Cry Cry is at its most interesting when the two songwriters play against type: Krug's "Valley Boy" is an airy, windswept piece of power pop that wouldn't sound out of place on a Big Star record; Boeckner's "Weaponized" begins with a typical menacing groove but soon morphs into an unexpectedly sweet piano ballad before producing the kind of stunning emotional payoff that Wolf Parade have dined out on for over a decade.
Not everything is different, however. "Weaponized" and Krug's "Baby Blue" prove the band remain at their best when they take the indie shackles off and flex their conceptual muscles; both songs drag on over six minutes and each does well with the extra space.
If only the entire album could be so ambitious. Elsewhere, Wolf Parade seem content to rest on their laurels, providing some dull moments. Album opener "Lazarus Online" is a plodding dud, undone by Krug's pat vocal performance and overwrought metaphors. Boeckner delivers his own disappointment on "Incantation," whose livewire guitar solo takes far too long to arrive.
Cry Cry Cry isn't going to radically alter anyone's perception of Wolf Parade. New listeners should still start with 2005's essential Apologies to the Queen Mary and 2008's underrated At Mount Zoomer. If those album's didn't or don't do anything for you, chances are this one won't either. However, for established fans, Cry Cry Cry is a worthy addition to the band's catalogue. Underneath its few flaws, an electrifying energy shines through, even if its not as potent as it might have seemed in those halcyon 2000s days. (Universal)