Ever since Sunset Rubdown's debut LP Shut Up I Am Dreaming made its welcome and permanent position in my life it has become quite clear that Spencer Krug's side project was threatening to upstage the main event. Now 3 years on and their third album sees the transformation complete. Never before has Wolf Parade sounded more like an afterthought and this band more like the powerhouse it has always threatened to be.
2007's Random Spirit Lover was a studio-built album, almost entirely written while recording and every layer being painstakingly overdubbed and adjusted. The result was tremendous but utterly overwhelming in its size and intensity. Dragonslayer is a totally different story. It is the product of a far more organic recording process with the music being left in its raw state and allowed to grow naturally. Strangely enough, having been born in a contrasting environment, Dragonslayer is just as momentous, but it's also an altogether different creation. Instead of pounding you into blissful submission Dragonslayer sprinkles angel dust in your eyes by way of some truly magnificent compositions and Spencer Krug's writing, which really have no place in a world this cynical.
Random Spirit Lover was all about excess. Almost every song launched into full blown magnitude during the first few bars with Krug filling every corner of each song with frenzied poetry. The first thing you notice about Dragonslayer is the space. The songs are long and the music is allowed time to really explore its territory. Instead of springing out of the blocks most songs here enjoy some of the most sublime introductions I've heard in a long time. Krug makes ambitious music and by gradually raising up these compositions in the way he does here transforms them into stella entities. I never thought he would ever top Shut Up I Am Only Dreaming Of Places Where Lovers Have Wings from the debut but Idiot Heart comes closer than anything else to stealing that crown. With a chugging guitar intro Krug simmers with brilliant clarity and patience. The instruments keep a low but weighty profile with a glorious guitar circling them with wild abandon. "You can't settle down until the Icarus in your blood drowns" mumbles Krug as the whole intricate construction swells in unison on the wing of this guitar work that never fails to light a fire in your heart in the brief time it is given to fly. In over six minutes in length this song dips and dives, hinting at finishing then changing course and hurtling off again.
Black Swan has a drum beat intro that runs for over a minute which is virtually unheard of from this band. Krug and his musicians explode periodically along this beat but then fade away to leave it running in its beautiful simplicity. The raw production employed on these songs is best seen in the lead guitar. On this song it flares and soars with unbridled energy then drops into the rhythm with expert timing. It really gives this album its feeling of limitlessness as it sings such heart wrenching melodies but with such gruff and gravely textures.
I could write endlessly about some of these songs, the dub rhythmical structure of You Go On Ahead (Trumpet Trumpet II), the near electro sound that introduces Nightingale/December Song or the moment Camilla Wynne Ingr first utters her soft vocal pearls on Idiot Heart but music this precious should really be left to be experienced. I could write forever but always fall short of capturing the magic that lies in Krug's crazy heart. He sings of shooting stars, magical palaces, kings and queens and mouthfuls of butterfly wings because these are the only concepts that sit comfortably in this vast imagination. By hiding under the sheltering banner of a side project Krug has managed to sneak up the inside lane and rides comfortably upfront. Propelled by bluebird's wings and dragon's flames he's racing ahead as one of todays finest songwriters and with a band this strong behind him there really is no stopping this glorious insanity.
29th Jun 2009 - Tumblr4
Shut Up I Am Dreaming
Random Spirit Lover
Great 90s blockbuster, with Harrison Ford carrying the movie on top finger-wagging form.
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Accomplished character piece. Almost stretches itself a bit thin, but it's stylish enough to transcend.
18th Mar 2017Read more 4 star reviews
Dated indie classic that uses music to create pseudo-sentimental highs of little real substance.
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Engaging, nostalgic doc which meanders through the rise and rise of 1995’s greatest band ever.
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7th Mar 2017Read more 4 star reviews
Confident indie comedy-thriller that pitches itself perfectly.
4th Mar 2017Read more 4 star reviews
Thoughtful character study, with Eddie Marsan standing up for those who slip through the cracks.
26th Feb 2017Read more 3.5 star reviews
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16th Feb 2017Read more 4 star reviews
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11th Feb 2017Read more 3 star reviews
Disappointing punk rock horror thriller, that doesn't make the best of its left field set up.
9th Feb 2017Read more 3 star reviews
Potentially forgettable buddy cop pic, elevated by a killer script and live wire performances.
1st Feb 2017Read more 4.5 star reviews
Accomplished, charming NZ indie comedy that wears its influences well.
1st Feb 2017Read more 3.5 star reviews
The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made
Inspiring doc about the kids remaking Raiders over 7 summers.
24th Jan 2017Read more 3.5 star reviews
Eight Days a Week
Inspiring reminder of the sheer volume of trail blazing laid down by The Beatles.
22nd Jan 2017Read more 3.5 star reviews
Seminal kids movie that I underrated in '85. Shot with an easy pace, until the free-swim at the end.
Halliwell says: The bottomless pit of the Spielberg genre, a silly tale which takes forever to get going and is acted by children who have not studied elocution. The trick effects when they come are OK, but it's a long annoying haul to that point.
22nd Jan 2017Read more 3.5 star reviews
Glacially paced, pretentious arthouse fluff, that fritters away a potentially interesting set up.
21st Jan 2017Read more 2 star reviews
Unremarkable potboiler from Le Carre, with a disappointingly bland turn from Ewan McGregor.
17th Jan 2017Read more 2.5 star reviews
Small scale period drama, anchored around strong central performances.
15th Jan 2017Read more 3 star reviews
Ambitious small scale sci-fi that drags a bit before it all gets a bit wacky.
11th Jan 2017Read more 3 star reviews
Tarantino zeros in on the most-tedious-film-ever award. Someone get the guy a new editor.
7th Jan 2017Read more 2 star reviews
Inventive ensemble drama, as David O. Russell takes another shot at Scorsese's crown. Great soundtrack too.
7th Jan 2017Read more 4 star reviews
Dawn of Justice
Mind-boggling, convoluted actioner that seems to have been written by picking ideas out of a hat.
4th Jan 2017Read more 1 star reviews
Extended super hero punch up, not dissimilar to the news man brawls of 'Anchorman'.
1st Jan 2017Read more 2.5 star reviews
Seamless CGI remake, lacking in humour and executed with the seriousness of LOTR or Apocalypse Now.
30th Dec 2016Read more 3.5 star reviews
Text-book rom-com that rebooted the genre and set the template for the next 3 decades.
26th Dec 2016Read more 4.5 star reviews
Decent enough animated parable from Disney. Lacking the usual emotional Pixar punch.
25th Dec 2016Read more 3 star reviews
A Star Wars Story
Second viewing and it's still holding together well. The third act is incredible.
22nd Dec 2016Read more 4 star reviews
A STAR WARS STORY
Impeccable world building and a nail biting finale mark a solid expansion of the universe.
18th Dec 2016Read more 4 star reviews
Solid Cold War drama. Unfortunately lacking the impact of both Spielberg and Hanks' best.
18th Dec 2016Read more 3.5 star reviews
From 3 minutes in this was the best film I've seen in ages. Nostalgic indie sci-fi.
13th Dec 2016Read more 4 star reviews
Arkward and occasionally hilarious Duplass-esque LA comedy. And only 75m long.
26th Nov 2016Read more 3 star reviews
Worthy, watertight journo movie. Full of great performances, but staying well between the lines.
21st Nov 2016Read more 4 star reviews
Derivative, badly cast cops + robbers pic. A pale imitation of Heat, without the style or performances.
12th Nov 2016Read more 2.5 star reviews
Glacially paced re-hash/follow up to Dazed and Confused, with moments of fun. Great music.
11th Nov 2016Read more 3 star reviews
Stupid action movie that never stops winking at the audience.
4th Nov 2016Read more 2.5 star reviews
LA Confidential meets The Big Lebowski in the best way possible. Great turns from Reynolds and Crowe.
4th Nov 2016Read more 4 star reviews
A classic story and allstar cast, but John Sturges' vintage western seems slow and dated now.
2nd Nov 2016Read more 3.5 star reviews
Beard-heavy special ops bloodbath, with more than a passing nod to the equally impartial Black Hawk Down.
26th Oct 2016Read more 2 star reviews
Boring, meandering re-tread of The Departed. Wannabe Scorcese, with a typically OTT Johnny Depp.
19th Oct 2016Read more 3 star reviews
Smart-ass financial drama. OTT Bale, reasonable turn from Pitt, Reynolds steals the show.
2nd Oct 2016Read more 3.5 star reviews
Terrifying post-nuclear drama. Dated to the mood of its era, but still effectively realistic.
30th Sep 2016Read more 3.5 star reviews
Intense indie drama. Pacing is a little lopsided, but the sentiment and strong performances carry it through.
24th Sep 2016Read more 4 star reviews
Electrifying script, captivating performances and effortless, accomplished direction. Outstanding.
18th Sep 2016Read more 4.5 star reviews
It's only episode 2, but it's Dirty-Harry-by-numbers. Luckily those numbers still add up to something.
Halliwell says: Toned-down sequel to Dirty Harry; the violence is still there but the hero no longer commits it.
18th Sep 2016Read more 3.5 star reviews
Superior kids movie. ET meets King Kong. Bit slow, but ten times deeper than the wafer thin original.
1st Sep 2016Read more 3.5 star reviews
Half baked British thriller. Some decent ideas, but it's all a bit studenty.
28th Aug 2016Read more 2 star reviews
Another disastrous Peter Pan reboot. Nonsensical gibberish, trying to capture some Baz Luhrmann weirdness.
18th Aug 2016Read more 2 star reviews
Super sharp teen movie, bursting with style and originality and loaded with an impeccable soundtrack.
17th Aug 2016Read more 3.5 star reviews
Thoughtful, creative, mainstream indie from Mike Mills. Lovingly performed and put together.
8th Aug 2016Read more 4 star reviews