Dan Boeckner, “former” Wolf Parade-er, and his wife Alexei Perry are back with their latest release, Sound Kapital. Handsome Furs have consolidated their sound, and have progressively earned a great deal of respectability in their own right, not just as an extension of Wolf Parade. It should come as little surprise then, that they’ve managed to transition from being just another side project with an uncertain future, to gaining “main band” status.
Sound Kapital further explores new territory, especially theme-wise. Their previous album, Face Control, was characterized by a strong Soviet-inspired political theme. Sound Kapital picks up right where it left off. These past few years, Handsome Furs traveled extensively across Asia, where they witnessed the lack of freedom in some countries like Myanmar, where they helped a local band release a record. So for the third album, Handsome Furs drew inspiration from oppressive dictatorships and the impact they have on society, challenging the audience to contest them. For example, the song “Damage” plays real radio broadcasts from such countries, with Boeckner frenetically singing “do the right thing, do the right thing baby”. In this respect, these are clearly songs of protest, but what is amazing is just how catchy they really are. You’ll find yourself in a awkward position, torn between wanting to dance and wanting to listen intently to the lyrics. I suggest you do both.
Handsome Furs make great dance-rock tunes. For their third album, they put the guitars away and chose to use mainly drum machines and synths; the result is pretty great. “Repatriated”, one of their strongest tracks, starts off with the line “where did the future go?”, and it gradually builds up, until in explodes with the chorus “I’ll never be repatriated”. The standout track, however, is “Serve the People”. A lot more slowed down in pace at first, Boeckner displays his ragged vocals as the tension in his voice raises simultaneously as the track builds up. You can feel the rage building up inside him as he poignantly accuses “you don’t serve the people”.
The album achieves a perfect balance between accessibility and intelligent political lyrics, without it being a downer or too-heavy handed. If anything, it is an album you want to explore further and fully digest it. If they keep putting out albums like this one, we just might find some solace from Wolf Parade’s possible rupture (they are now on an indefinite hiatus).