Sunday, 3 June 2012

Japandroids - Celebration Rock added to 2012 Recommended Albums

The term "rock and roll" presents a number of different ideas, sometimes contrasting. Japandroids represent many of the common principles of rock through the ages and in its many guises, yet strip them down to the bare essentials. Brian King and David Prowse sound like two guys that with all the money, fame and riches in the world would continue wiith their two person lineup, black and white aesthetic and most importantly, their intense life-or-death approach they convey in their music.

Maybe it's because they know they'll never reach the top, may never get the girl, and might eventually grow old and resentful that they continue in such a way. Their sound isn't complex: a combination of garage rock and Paul Westerberg with particularly emo-sounding lyrics over the top. Their instruments sound pretty much the same on every track. A few albums into the future this attitude may get tiresome, and already can be exhausting to just listen to, but for now they remain one of the most exciting rock bands out there.

Celebration Rock follows Japandroids' 2009 debut Post-Nothing, an album written when they were already on the verge of breaking up. Uncertainty is still a theme in their music, but is overshadowed by passion and determination. It's an extremely optimistic and inviting record for the most part; singer/guitarist Brian King sounds like he wants the whole crowd on his side, that every fan is important to him. Everything about this album is at least a small improvement than that on the first. The production is much cleaner, allowing every power chord, snare rush and "oh-oh oh!" chorus to feel as direct as the front row of the crowd. The songwritting is more focused, and each track has a cluster of memorable lyrics. The whole album is sequenced in such a way that it only intensifies with every minute: it takes the penultimate track and lead single "The House That Heaven Built" to reach it's emotional peak, and with the weight of what's come before it's probably the most euphoric moment on the record.

I feel as though I'd not be doing this record service if I didn't mention "Younger Us". Released as a single back in 2010 it's been on my iPod for a long time now, and is still one of my go-to songs for immediate, visceral satisfaction. It remains the best song Japandroids have ever written for my money, and makes an excellent home in this record. "Remember that night you were already in bed / said "fuck it" got up to drink with me instead" is lyrical perfection, and sums up the Japandroids' experience exactly: late nights, alcohol, nicotine, caffiene, anything to pour your soul out to. It would have been a very respectable choice for Song of the Year had it not been released previously.

Overall Celebration Rock feels like a late-night record, a drive through the rain, a personal journey as well as a collective one. It comes from a world where it's totally ok for fully-grown guys to pour out their feelings into music, to expose themselves completely, where others would hide behind layers of metaphor and double-meaning, and where "Adrenaline Nightshift" is an acceptable name for a song by a band that calls themselves "Japandroids". But they sound like best of friends playing punk music for their lives, and represent the hard-working, even mundane aspects of doing so. The fact their journey is something we can so often relate to makes it one of the most exciting of all. And as you hear the fireworks closing the steady comedown of "Continuous Thunder", you realize Celebration Rock is a near-perfect celebration of that.

Celebration Rock is out on Polydor in a couple of days, and is still streaming at NPR Music.

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