“The Day Sub Pop Killed Wolf Parade”

When you Google “sub pop fleet foxes,” the first four search results you get are housed in the record label’s official website, in some way, shape or form. How they pulled this off, I have no idea: I doubt Donald Trump even has that many Internet search avenues devoted to his name. The whole thing, though, surely bespeaks a professional relationship between the band and label indicative of artistic trust and commercial success.
There’s just one problem: the Fleet Foxes are no longer ON Sub Pop, nobody for that matter being quite sure just why. And don’t count on Robin Pecknold’s good-ol’-boy west coast disposition for an honest answer either [1]. We couldn’t even get complete sentences out of him on the issue: “Hugely grateful to Sub Pop and honored to have been on that label” [2] (translation: “Not hugely grateful to Sub Pop or to have been on that label”).
Now, I really can’t stand the west coast and it can’t stand me, so I guess it’s lucky that this post has to deal primarily with Toronto’s Wolf Parade, each of whose first two albums I included in “Dolby’s Top 214 Albums of All Time” (http://dolbydisaster.com/?p=18104) which yes I did complete in the year 2014, hence the unorthodox title and album count. Wolf Parade has been on Sub Pop, an independent, self-made giant of a label notable for having once boasted Nirvana (for their first album Bleach) as its domain, as well as for its somewhat quirky, sporadic diction of “world domination” (the label refers to its offices as “World Headquarters” and has an illustrious reputation for hyping itself up, by any means necessary).
Apropos of this, it’s now July, and the new Wolf Parade album is here! Well, kinda. It’s actually not “out,” according to its world controller Sub Pop, until October 6th. But apparently the album is finished because the label in one of its shares referred to it as “excellent,” the type of thing surely expected by somebody selling something, obviously. The track “Valley Boy,” which will position third on the album, is now available for listening purposes.
In late 2005, I purchased the Wolf Parade – Apologies to Queen Mary CD at Best Buy, on the strength of a positive review in Rolling Stone. Indeed, the only way I could have made the process less hipster is if I’d like stopped at Wendy’s right after. Nonetheless, I listened to the CD in its entirety and was struck by just the sense of poignance and gravity the band was able to get across even with the music itself, let alone in tandem with the sharp, often metaphoric lyrics of both Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner. They made strident sonic stabs as a band, often fusing guitar and drum sounds into the same with expert coordination, and the musical statements in the form of indie pop were strong but simple, somehow cathartic in their penchant for juxtaposing haunting spaces of emptiness, surrounding the individual timbres. The “hype machine” didn’t bother me: they were produced by Isaac Brock and handled by Rolling Stone, but I saw them as a necessary contributor to the overall indie rock conversation, which was in full bloom by 2005 replete with the New Pornographers, Black Mountain and Sufjan Stevens, all being in their ostensible prime. I didn’t view music as a competition, but rather more like a quilt to which each contributor donates his or her own unique patch.
Well, Christ, it’s 2017 and we Americans put up with a lot of sh**… can we at least listen to the god da**ed Wolf Parade album, Sub Pop? I could never imagine having heard track three “Grounds for Divorce” from Apologies to Queen Mary before imbibing those unforgettable stabs on “You Are a Runner and I Am My Father’s Son,” the album’s lead. And I don’t want to do that with Cry Cry Cry, even if it is as mediocre as the band’s last alum, Expo 86 (which I have a feeling it will be).
[1] This guy’s overly nice, sugar-coated interview responses make me long for the hilarious, curt bluntness of Bob Dylan, a la Rolling Stone’s Bob Dylan / The Essential Interviews ed. by Jonathan Cott.
[2] http://pitchfork.com/thepitch/1461-robin-pecknold-talks-new-fleet-foxes-album-and-going-back-to-school/.

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