Wolf Parade kick-start their third album by getting right into rambling poetics. “I was asleep in a hammock/I was dreaming that I was a web/I was a dreamcatcher hanging in the window of a mini-van parked along the water’s edge,” says guitarist/keyboardist Spencer Krug in a shaky vocal on “Cloud Shadow on the Mountain,” before synths yelp and guitar effects creak and ruminate. Welcome to Expo 86, a world where Krug and fellow singer/guitarist Dan Boeckner guide you through a tangled indie-rock meadow overrun with luminous instrumentation, shifting moods, and lyrics dotted with evocatively kooky turns of phrase like “I take my meals with weirdos and play with my rocket ships.”
According to its PR material, Expo 86 is sorta framed in tribute to the Vancouver world’s fair all four Wolf Paraders attended in 1986, before they all met, and the record captures the vibe and excitement of an adolescent’s big day out. There are triumphant highs (“Cave-o-Sapien”), wistful medium highs (“Pobody’s Nerfect”), and forlorn, confused lows (“Ghost Pressure”). The problem is that the experience can feel as if it were aiming to be too big, and then the tracks become overloaded. “Ghost Pressure” is dominated by a frostbitten, ridiculously catchy synth line, but the song dissipates its emotional force by running a minute too long. Ambition might sound like an odd thing to chide a band for, but if Wolf Parade had figured out when to push the hooks and when to pull back the excess, Expo 86 would have shone.
WOLF PARADE | House of Blues 15 Lansdowne St, Boston | July 12 | 8 pm | $22-$25 | 888.693.BLUE or houseofblues.com