Originally released on: At Mount Zoomer (June 17, 2008)
Samples: Too many to mention.
As if you didn’t know that it would sting…
One of the more unwelcome aspects of 2008’s musical experience were the number of follow-up records that disappointed; the bands who broke through on their last release that couldn’t quite match the same dizzying heights. I’ll be addressing a few of them when I post my albums list later this week, but At Mount Zoomer, Wolf Parade’s second full-length, certainly falls into the category.
Maybe it’s that the band didn’t have the chance to construct the record across a series of EPs like they did with Apologies to the Queen Mary. But I kind of feel like my issue with the record is its inability to reconcile its parts into a unified whole. I’m a huge fan of both Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug and their respective projects (Krug’s Sunset Rubdown claimed my top album of 2006, no less), but what I loved about Apologies was that it felt like these two divergent songwriters were finding common ground.
At Mount Zoomer lacks that “meeting in the middle” vibe. Boeckner is more game than Krug, to my ears; Krug submits one song that is so completely indistinguishable from Sunset Rubdown that it’s somewhat distressing. Without that sense of collaboration, the whole record just feels like a slightly off-beat exercise.
That is, until “Kissing the Beehive.”
FINALLY, my ears rang out with glee. The one true Boeckner/Krug collaboration on the record almost makes the preceding 30 minutes worth it, because in more than 10 glorious minutes lies everything I love about Wolf Parade: the manic verses, the rolling synthesizers, the gritty guitar slashes, the twinkling melodies. As the two vocalists trade lines, their individual quirks start to mesh together and play off one another, escalating with every measure of music they mash up against. Each movement references back to its predecessors until it all comes crashing together in a chaotic, sprawling final act that loses itself in its own climax like nothing else released this year.
It’s a climax so massive that there’s no other place that “Kissing the Beehive” could live on this mixtape save for the penultimate track. Recognizing this, I’ve taken the opportunity presented by the song’s instrumental-only final movement to bid farewell to 2008 in a sonic blur: a collection of memorable sound bites, clips and news events unaddressed by the rest of the mixtape.
I have to admit to feeling a bit uneasy about how prominently I placed Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s famous “god damn America” clip, but it seems a fitting: when placed with the song’s gigantic final seconds, it pairs two of 2008’s most unfiltered, unbound moments together in chaotic, glorious harmony. It’s like bidding a cathartic farewell to everything maddening about the previous 365 days.
And good riddance to it.