We Are Wolves
Is it time to declare a moratorium on bands with the word ‘wolf,’ or some other variant, in their name? Whether intentional or not, this hirsute animal has been at the forefront of everything from the Southern rock posturing of Wolfmother to the Furried electropunk of Fox’n'Wolf and even the abrasive noisescapes of the cringe-inducing AIDS Wolf. Hoping to separate themselves from the pack is the Montreal-based We Are Wolves, whose third album, Invisible Violence, is packed with just enough art-punk bravado, crystalline synthwork and buzzsaw guitar to make you forget their well-worn name.
Released on Dare to Care in late 2009, Invisible Violence culls equal influence from late 80s electropop and shambling garage punk and fuses them using art-school mixology in a familiar but appealing way. Singer and bassist Alexander Ortiz’s fluid voice sounds like the lovechild of ‘Crazy Train’ era Ozzy and TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, while drummer and backup vocalist Antonin Marquis keeps everything grounded with his precision snares and crashing high hats. Keyboardist and (yup, they all sing!) backup singer Vincent Levesque adds a touch of Italo-disco arpeggios and spacy call and response synths that wouldn’t sound out of place on an old Jean-Micheal Jarre or OMD track.
“Paloma,” the album’s lead track, builds the pressure with a sliding scale guitar riff and garage punk rhythm that segues into the hyper caffeinated hand-clap burst of “Holding Hands.” While the piled on vocal effects sometimes threaten to overwhelm, Ortiz manages to come through the other side higher than before. The high-school diary lyrics of “Dreams,” coupled with the simplistic pogo beat, is the low before the high of “Vague,” easily one of the album’s standout tracks. A metronomic tick keeps the time of a wildly pitched-up synthline as the bass plumbs to depths designed to move even the sturdiest of shoulders. Plus, what song couldn’t benefit from an oscillating synthesizer solo?
The electronic pulse of “Reaching for the Sky” will make any fan of Giorgio Moroder proud, while the New Order inflected “La Rue Oblique” gains mystery from it’s indecipherable French lyrics. Most surprising though is the last track, “Bounty Waterfalls.” It’s melancholic synthpop yearning sweeps the guitar and drums away to reveal a tender dance between nostalgia and clairvoyance, the sound of optimistic youth who might not be so sure what it is they’re looking forward to.
We Are Wolves have already toured the United States and Europe, performed live on the Canadian live concert series CBC Radio 3 and lent their music to not one but two video games, which begs the question; why do they still sound like they have something to prove?