Now, this is the record I’ve been waiting for all year and it dropped at the perfect time. Yes, I was anticipating new material from Japandroids, but that isn’t the reason I’m so psyched. I’m excited because we finally have a start-to-finish, full-throttle, fist-pumping, unrelenting rock record! Sure, there have been some darn good albums that got close, e.g., Sleigh Bells‘ Reign of Terror and Cloud Nothings’ Attack on Memory. No offense to either of those bands but Japandroids’ Celebration Rock is the crème de la crème. Coming in at 34 minutes and 8 tracks in length, this is 2012’s summer awakening. From the opening number, “The Nights of Wine and Roses”, this record is all about adrenaline-inducing numbers that make you want to let go and thrash around with a bunch of sweaty concert-goers, screaming out choruses at the top of your lungs. And, even, if you prefer to avoid that sort of intimacy with fellow humans at a music venue, you will still feel the urge to tap your feet and flex your arms to the band’s extremely loud and heart-pounding rhythms. If you can’t already tell, I adore this album.
Warning, if you don’t like loud music, you should avoid these guys, because they are a hurricane of sound. For the intrepid (few?) who fear no distortion or amps turned to 11, then you have found the right place. These guys definitely know how to turn up the volume!
“We yell like hell to the heavens” from “The Nights of Wine and Roses”
If you’ve never heard of Japandroids before, here is the quick dirt: The band is compromised of two guys (Brian King and David Prowse) from Vancouver that play guitar and drums. In 2009, they released a phenomenal debut record, Post-Nothing, and started winning the hearts of countless fans across North America, including this one, with their straight-forward, yet unique brand of punk infused, lo-fi, noise rock. What distinguishes Japandroids from the rest of the punk/indie rock scene is their ability to fuse the outwardly-focused power and drive of early Punk with the latter day introspective qualities of Emo (to some the ugly step-child of Punk). From Punk, they incorporate community-building through a shared sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo (or “the we”). From Emo, they pull out its empowering sense of self-expression and self-assertion (or the “I”). The cumulative effect is a collection of truly anthemic songs to which kids of all ages can relate.
Starting with Post-Nothing, Japandroids made it clear that they came to rock and have fun, but not in a crude or cruel way – some bands seem to think that “rocking out” means being crass and misogynistic. Instead, the boys from Vancouver fully embrace with unabashed sincerity the enthusiastic, carefree (and at times careless), carpe-diem attitude of adolescence. Don’t assume that their penchant for youthful energy and emotions means they are some form of rock-n-roll Lost Boys. No. Japandroids, as befits the record’s title, celebrate the power and conviction of being young and seeing the world with a clarity of vision and firmness of purpose. Just listen to them on “Younger Us”, listing a series of youthful clichés and reminiscing about the things they used to do. It is not a song of nostalgia and regret for so-called “glory days”, it’s a statement of keeping those memories and desires alive in the present. It’s not just the “good stuff”, Japandroids also recognize the dangerous joy of giving in to darker convictions, check out “Evil’s Sway” with its curious choruses of “Oh Yeahs” and “All Rights”.
No song on this record better encapsulates the band’s signature sound and qualities than the first single, “The House that Heaven Built“. When I first heard this song, I was convinced it would be the opening track to the album with its unceasing and pounding rhythm and its “oh oh oh” choruses – what better way to open an album, right? Wrong. They are clearly clever producers by placing it as the penultimate song, which as my friend MS will acknowledge is “a genius move”: get the crowd worked up and leave them wanting more at the end. When Brian King, shouts “If they try to slow you down, tell them all to go to hell”, he isn’t merely invoking some sort of anti-authoritarian, adolescent contrarian brush off. It is a wake-up call and a reminder to the idealists and dreamers in all of us (oftentimes lost or hidden in the day-to-day) that you can’t give up when pursuing your dreams or living your life on your own terms.
…and how do they close, possibly the most rocking record since Wild Flag‘s self-titled debut? By writing a slow burning guitar jam, “Continuous Thunder“, about an enduring and passionate love affair: “if I had all of the answers and you had the body you wanted, would we love with a legendary fire?” Let’s face it, nothing says adolescence like unabashed emotional hyperbole, and, you know what, it is the perfect ending to a near perfect record. Fireworks included. Literally.
I’ll most certainly be blasting Celebration Rock all summer long (probably to the dismay of my neighbors)! Perhaps you might want to join me…
Listen to Japandroids’ Celebration Rock in its entirety here.
Skinny Clenched Fists to the Air,
p.s. … if you haven’t already, go back and listen to Post-Nothing! And if you can catch them live, run, don’t walk!!!