Somehow it’s 2020 and we’re 15 years removed from the release of Apologies to the Queen Mary, 10 years removed from the release of Expo 86, and, as of Thursday night, 6 days removed from the release of Wolf Parade’s latest album Thin Mind. The new release on Sub Pop is the first in years to feature a return to the trio format the band originally coalesced into. Whether Thin Mind will go on to define the sound of a decade like the band’s first album has yet to be seen. It continues the gradual melding of the songwriting and singing of its two leads, which had taken a big step ten years ago on Expo. And Thursday night at The Regent in downtown Los Angeles fans got to hear the new material live for the first time.
The venue was jammed full. Montreal favorites Land of Talk had played a rousing opening set featuring their own classics like the timeless “Some Are Lakes” as well as newer material (Their new album “Indistinct Conversations” comes out spring 2020) with lead singer Elizabeth Powell’s super distinctive voice flowing over her jagged chords and some thunderous bass and drums from the rest of the band. Then after a brief break LA City Council Candidate Nithya Raman got on stage to campaign for the votes of the audience and did it long enough that a few excited crowd members started yelling “Wolf Parade” during her speech. Awkward moment, but everyone cheered her on after that and obviously most of the audience was on her side. And then there was a long wait, felt like 20-25 minutes before the band hit the stage. The crowd was very ready when the show started
Kicking off with “Soldier’s Grin” from 2008 album At Mount Zoomer the band blasted through a baker’s dozen of Dan Boeckner led irresistible rockers and Spencer Krug led anthemic explorations. The classics got their due, “Fine Young Cannibals” threw the room into a frenzy and “This Heart’s on Fire” had everyone around singing and swaying. But the newer material was the focus of the night. If the crowd wasn’t as familiar with the newer tracks they seemed just as excited to hear anything they could get and, actually, it was impressive how much singing along and excitement there was for Thin Mind songs.
Moody projected lighting and graphics covered the band and the stage throughout the night with shifts for each new song (If you saw the last Operators show at the Teragram, one of Boeckner’s many side project bands, you know exactly what was up with the projections). At times stripes of various colors, at times a flock of birds, and at times Montreal’s iconic Farine Five Roses neon sign. Often it felt like the band was in some kind of aquarium, so when “Under the Glass” from Thin Mind hit with the lines “Like science fiction, We’re under the glass again, And now I can’t remember, How life was outside on the outside” it was a perfect fit. Following on was Spencer Krug led “Julia Take Your Man Home” with his distinctive voice deftly waivering over a driving rhythm from Arlen Thompson’s drums and some angular guitar lines. Thin Man songs 4 and 5 played consecutively, Out of Control with it’s lamenting and The Static Age, which feels like a summation of Thin Man’s theme of the emptiness created by modern technology. Around this point in the show it really started to set in how different the sound of the band is without Dante DeCaro. With Krug playing bass on the synth the music has a much more electronic feel that helps bring out that theme of the new album.
Newer songs Forest Green and Fall Into the Future highlighted the later part of the set. And an encore featuring “Disco Sheets”, “Shine a Light”, and “Kissing the Beehive” wrapped things up for the night.
Considering how active Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug are with endless other projects, like Operators and Moonface, it’s amazing they have energy left for Wolf Parade. But as great as their other endeavors may be, there’s an undeniable magic that happens when they get together and, thankfully, they keep bring us new music and new shows. Lucky us.
Words and photos by Tim Aarons