Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Gut Feeling: Japandroids - Celebration Rock

Japandroids – Celebration Rock
Polyvinyl, 2012

I sorta wrote off Vancouver duo Japandroids after seeing them play what I perceived at the time to be a boring live show. The Bottleneck was pretty empty, and I wasn’t even on the guest list because that had been happening a lot lately and I only got in because the Pitch’s managing editor happened to be outside the Bottleneck and did some sweet-talking. I think my mood had a lot to do with my opinion of the show, because I really loved their debut full length Post-Nothing. Their noisy, fuck-it-let’s-rock-the-fuck-out indie rock was classic. “The Boys Are Leaving Town” was on serious repeat in 2009 and though the music seemed simple on first listen, there was something about it that really resonated. I remember there was a big fan pointed toward singer/guitarist Brian King, which reminded me of this one time I saw this dude put on a solo metal show at the Replay Lounge and the dude played in front of a fan so it would blow his long midnight black metal hair all over the place. I don’t think King had long hair though, and I don’t know why I remember that, and I again I don’t know why that show left such a bad taste in my mouth but it did and it caused me to avoid pouncing on Celebration Rock when it came out in early June.

But now I’m listening to it and it’s got that same charm you get when you’re only playing with guitar, drums, vocals and a metric ton of reverb and distortion. Every track here is an anthem. Not some contrived anthem like all those songs on the new Gaslight Anthem album (man, talk about an anthem obsessed band if there ever was one) but like legitimate, fist-in-airs balls-to-wall anthems that most definitely appeal to a particular demographic of young, angsty men. I walk among that demographic, so fuck yes, I love Celebration Rock. And I love music that sounds like Celebration Rock. And I really want Japandroids to tour with Titus Andronicus and the Hold Steady because if you put those three bands on the same bill it might just be the best bill you’d ever see. An irreverent party full of fist pumps and sweaty bodies.

Like Post-Nothing, Celebration Rock boasts a sensational opening track with “The Nights of Wine and Roses.” King and drummer David Prowse make the most of their sparse set-up with huge guitars, shout-a-long vocal harmonies, and pummeling drums lurking in the background and picking up the slack on the breaks between riffs straight out of the best 80s punk rock songs. There’s a bats cover of The Gun Club’s “For the Love of Ivy” right there in the middle too, but it’s a nice weird change of pace that works as a sort palate cleanser. One that sets you up for “Adrenaline Nightshift” which hits like the best sort of punch in the face, and really does a great job of holding this brisk album up by preventing a mid-album slump. This thing never stops. At just 8 songs the thing is kinda fucking perfect. That’s just the right amount of songs to really encourage replayability. Too many, the songs might start to blend together, too few and it’s a glorified EP. Here it feels like an album unified by noisy ass guitars and songs about drinking and being alive. Anyone can build an angle out of anthems, but for a real fist-pumper to work you’ve gotta have heart, and the amount of heart these guys have is what makes Japandroids so special. Well, that and their gift for sustaining forty straight minutes of alt-rock that never quits and packs an emotional punch down in the majesty of power chords.

Here's the awesome closing track "Continuous Lightning." It's a goddamn stunner.

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