Dan explains what the song is about in this 2005 interview:
“We Built Another World” is about this time she and I went to a Halloween party and got thrown out for breakdancing. And also fighting with some people. We were super-drunk and on this street laughing, and it started snowing. It was the first snow I’d ever seen in Montreal. And we ended up in the back of this cab just making out.
Listen to this early version from EP 2, which you can purchase from Cheap Thrills
Writer David Grossman submitted an essay for this project:
Okay, so: how did this album become a forgotten memory of the mid-2000’s heyday, a definition of its moment, like Dio’s Holy Diver, as opposed to a defining piece of music, like Arcade Fire’s Funeral or Metallica’s Master of Puppets? A few reasons:
The lack of consistency: this goes to the merely technical issue of two singers, but also how Apologies deals with the constant push and pull of hope and despair, of being so close to breaking free and falling, of dreaming of more. Of being trapped and being free. Apologies talks about this in terms of alcoholism, in terms of love, in terms of nothing more than coming to terms with itself! It’s not any one thing, but like its cover art, a beautiful amalgamation. It’s an album you can’t get a bead on, one that shifts and centers itself in a new place in your life depending on what station you’re at.
There’s also the stylized loudness: turn on “You Are a Runner And I Am My Father’s Son”, and the first thing you get is basic drums, playing in a way that calls more attention to the silence around them. Where does that get you? To an odd warble, a voice that only transitions to a more nasally voice, and only gets a low-humming guitar punctuated with shrieks. It’s the Pixies seen through a thousand mirrors. AllMusic noted that a “certain kind of wry yelp” emerged as a sticking point in the mid-2000’s indie rock game, and it’s worth noting that other yelpers like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah didn’t really stick around either.
This all sounds very silly to Apologists, the nickname I just gave to Queen Mary stans like myself, who consider the album as big as life could possibly be. All of its inconsistencies are built into a bravado, a declaration of life, of the ways you can possible.
Oh my god man, I mean just listen to “We Built a Another World”. That’s the track that’s about how awful it is go out at night to parties, but how you’ve got to because that’s the only place you can exist on your own terms. There’s a feeling of being trapped there, a feeling that you could call Springsteen-ian if you wanted, of poetry and romanticism, but the two meet each other and never resolve. “I had a bad, bad time tonight” goes the chorus. There’s such a footstomping beat to its chorus, its determination whim the low “whoa whoa”s that you can’t help sing along. The catchiest part of the song is the part where you can’t give up on what you’ve built.
A few tracks later you get the sad, surreal sea shanty that is “Same Ghost Every Night”, a song similar in plot to that old country classic “A Long Black Veil”, but with none of the elaborate plotting. It’s nothing but raw emotion, nothing but the slightest element of spiritualism thrown against a lonely paranoia. It warbles, it shakes, it crashes into itself, it does all these things and manages to stand its own two legs and makes you think you can too.
Needless to say, this is a fantastic makeout album. The entire thing is sexy as hell, yelps and keyboards and all. It’s about trying to make a connection, desperately, but Apologies to the Queen Mary doesn’t sound desperate. It sounds like it’s the only thing that’ll let you escape.
Here’s another written submission for this track from Ryan Jordan
“We Built Another World”
Young children have a way of speaking that is maddeningly simplistic yet refreshingly so. Before the adverbs and the adjectives, there are only verbs and nouns. Unspecific, yes, but also unencumbered. When there is little-to-no subtext to consider, one must confront the text itself.
I had a bad, bad time tonight
Adults, if they are well-adjusted enough to do so, recognize the power of simple language, of stripping away the extra words and unnecessary phrases in order to prick directly at one’s subject. But this is rarely done from a considered lack of subtext; instead, a simple phrase uttered by an intelligent speaker becomes only subtext, the text simply a delivery service to invite another into conversation with the subtext. It is a little wave of the hand to imply, “Here is the thing we’re both thinking about.”
I had a bad, bad time tonight
Much religious teaching encourages adherents to think like children. This is not meant to promote an unlearned approach to communication (though certainly some religions do implicitly dissuade a kind of intellectualized approach to life), but rather to prompt recognition that the text is all we have. Morphing Wittgenstein, Maggie Nelson writes of making a fetish of the unsaid, “rather than simply letting it be contained in the sayable.”
Bad things happen in the night
All of this is to say (in the most sayable way I can): Spencer Krug’s refrain on “We Built Another World” is childish. It is a perfect foil to the descriptive, specific, exacting language of Dan Boeckner’s world:
At the party we got chained at the wrists
I made a loud sound and shake some teeth
Hang ghosts from the trees and that’s what I saw
In Boeckner’s verses, you know (if you’re a middle-class, white North American like me) the exact scene/people/part of the city he’s describing. In Krug’s lines, you know (if you’re a human like me) the utter defeat, the quiet humiliation, the exasperated admission of disappointment contained therein.
This interplay–of the specific and the general, the industrial and the poetic, the expressed and the inexpressible–was for me the most exciting part of the world built by Wolf Parade’s debut album. There are of course other such moments on the record where this comes into sharp relief (“I’ll Believe in Anything” into “It’s A Curse” may be my favorite), but the artful expression of both in the same three-minute burst is what marks the enduring brilliance of “We Built Another World.”
Here is part 4 of my discussion with Dan:
After the CBC Radio 3 session Spencer and I flew down to Los Angeles to listen to mixes and mix with Chris Chandler and Isaac. I remember Issac had done a pretty great job mixing and Chris was backing him up. But we went to LA and we just didn’t like the mixes. They were very polished. Isaac had just come out of making Good News for People Who Like Bad News. Issac had never worked in a pop studio format before and I think he had to do all sorts of stuff he’d never done before. Like tons of vocal comping and having 4 pro tools set ups running at the same time. So he was in that mindset, with vocals way up front, like everything being really clean. I remember that being the biggest problem we had with the original mixes.
In retrospect, things might have turned out different for Wolf Parade had we used those mixes. They were pretty poppy and I think maybe it was only perceptible only to us. But I think there were would have definitely been more radio involved (in our career) because a lot of Isaac’s mixes were mixes for radio. He had this idea to mix, especially Spencer’s songs, like early David Bowie stuff. So the piano stuff is super dry and hard panned and the vocals are really really loud and up front and that just didn’t gel with our idea of what the record should sound like. I think mentally at that point we weren’t in a great state to be weighing the pros and cons of those kind of mixes. It was a really stressful experience.
We left that session with a giant question mark over the record. Then everyone met up in LA and we played All Tomorrow’s Parties. Which was our first real big show. It was the first time we played in front of that many people, and it was our first outdoor festival.
The story of how the title of the record came to be, from an interview Hadji did in 2006:
The Queen Mary was basically the nexus and the sleeping quarters for everyone who was playing All Tomorrow’s Parties and the bar closed really early. I mean it was literally a boatload of musicians and the bar shut down at like midnight or something. Our friends from Frog Eyes were also in town, so they came down. Whenever closing time was, I don’t really remember, but at some point we eventually got kicked out of the bar. Security on the Queen Mary was nice enough, though, to unlock a door that got us onto this area of the boat that was usually restricted and told us that we could make as much noise as we wanted because we wouldn’t disturb anyone.
We just cruised back there and we came across this door that said Winston Churchill Honorary Ballroom and we were like What the fuck is this? The door was locked, but Michael, or someone from Frog Eyes just kicked the door in, and we came upon this opulent, sprawling, bedazzled ballroom that was deep inside the bowels of the Queen Mary. Basically we were so stoked to come across this monumental room, so we started to just party in there. And then because there’s this whole thing about the Queen Mary being haunted, I decided that we needed to do a seance and manifest this era of Winston Churchill, because obviously he was actually on this boat at one time. We came across this old oak table inside the room that somehow got turned into a Ouija board, which included a buck knife and kicking the legs off.
Then some crazy ornament that got taken off of the wall got turned into the Ouija and we manifested some spirits. The spirits turned out to be pretty immature, unfortunately, and started doing stupid stuff like drinking too much and breaking stuff, basically just being pretty rowdy. So the spirits just ended up fucking shit up and we couldn’t control them at all because they were spirits. You know they did some illegal stuff too, like throwing stuff overboard and shit like that. Long story short, we ended up getting kicked off of the boat.
We tried to explain to the management that it was just the spirits, but they didn’t see them so they couldn’t really understand what we were talking about.
It was actually just Arlen and I by that time negotiating with the manager and she was like, we’ve had Led Zeppelin, The Sex Pistols and Guns N Roses all on this boat, but no band has ever been kicked off of the Queen Mary. Right now, Im kicking you off of the Queen Mary. And all I could think at the time was Oh my god did anybody here that? Please tell me somebody got that shit on tape. Do you hear the company we’re in? But only Arlen and me have that gem imbedded in our memory.
That moment when you start hearing @ArcadeFiretube song titles in a Wolf Parade album: "Here comes the night time" – We built another world
— Matthias Dillen (@Philofuzz) September 12, 2015
The last 51 seconds of Wolf Parade's "We Built Another World" is my favorite thing right now.
— Mac McGuire (@somacgoes) August 22, 2013
dan boeckner was weirded out that both my fave songs of his (wolf parade's "we built another world," h. furs' "i'm confused") are in b minor
— LANA DEL TACO (@kissoutthejams) September 18, 2012
Reviews and quotes about Apologies
One of my favorite capsule reviews of Apologies from at David Peschek at The Guardian
More gold from the seemingly bottomless mines of Montreal, Wolf Parade’s debut comes hot on the heels of their friends Arcade Fire’s wondrous Funeral, with which it shares a clamorous, percussive urgency. It lurches into life with the brilliant eccentricity of You Are a Runner and I Am My Father’s Son, an ominous, muscular Kurt Weill-ish lurch over which swoops Dan Boeckner’s alien yelp. Grounds for Divorce builds over a buzzing guitar and goofily hooting synth, Boeckner almost gargling the vocal line. We Built Another World offers an unexpected reminder of unfairly forgotten Boston new-wavers Human Sexual Response, who are actually the closest reference point for Wolf Parade’s somewhat rabid mix of mighty quirk and emotional heft. And moving it certainly is, however cryptic, particularly in the throat-shredding and owlish backing vocals gilding the majestic trundle of Same Ghost Every Night, or the simple denials of misfit’s anthem Modern World. Magnificent, all told.
Another passionate review of Apologies from Liam Colle at Pop Matters
What really distinguishes Apologies to the Queen Mary from just another ambitious rock album though, is the dynamic and accessible songwriting—and the voices that propel those songs from the streets to the stratosphere. Krug and Boeckner trade off vocal duties throughout the album, but it feels less like “it’s your turn to sing” than “I need that microphone now”. Take Krug’s “I’ll Believe in Anything” or Boeckner’s “This Hearts on Fire” for example. Both songs are born of the same laws of the howl as they churn and explode into anthems for the re-enchanted disillusioned. Not only will the melodies stick in your head, this stuff is going to get under your skin.
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