Sure, the songs possessed a primal energy and a “damn the torpedoes” take on life that sounded familiar. Except they were new to my ears. And so, the last time I saw Japandroids live I could not wait for the second half of their set – the half where they played tracks from their debut album, Post-Nothing.
Listening to Japandroids’ sophomore album, Celebration Rock, the past week has made me realize the err of my ways. The album, not surprisingly for fans of Post-Nothing, is all about enjoying life’s ride (a la banging your head at Japandroids’ songs you don’t know).
This batch of eight guitar-and-drums blitzkriegs fit the album title to a T. Leave it to two men from Vancouver, B.C., who had all but quit their band a few years ago, to make a record with a life-affirming punk spirit, a slew of “oh-oh-oh” choruses, and a dogged focus on making the present count.
This is the sound of summer. For me, at least.
Celebration Rock starts with “Nights of Wine and Roses,” an ode to nights of possibility launched with fireworks popping and a blast of Brian King’s guitar that acts like a beam of light exploring the abyss. The universal desire to know what lies ahead is explored in simple, yet catchy terms.
“We don’t cry for those nights to arrive. We yell like hell to the heavens,” King’s punchy voice shouts. It’s such a Japandroids thing to say. Such an awesome thing to say.
“Fire’s Highway” and “Evil’s Sway” follow in the same carpe diem, shout-along territory. These songs make up for what they lack in variety with a uniform catchiness and a winning spirit.
Japandroids breaks away from the mold with a cover of The Gun Club’s “For the Love of Ivy.” While there is nothing wrong with the cover itself, the song seems to do nothing to further the band’s message, and thus feels out of place. The punk ethos is definitely there. And no doubt, King will accomplish his stated goal of introducing people to one of his favorite bands.
Japandroids follows the cover with three balls to the wall rock efforts – the aptly titled “Adrenaline Nightshift”, “Younger Us”, and “The House That Heaven Built”.
“Younger Us” has been around since 2010. The band changed nothing about it for Celebration Rock. Which is awesome. It is a 3:35 summation of everything Japandroids are about. The caterwauling guitar is here. So is David Prowse’s pummeling drums. The “ooooooooooohhhh’s”. A smile on my face. Everything.
“Give me that night you were already in bed, said ‘fuck it’, got up to drink with me instead,” King demands in the chorus. Throughout the song he makes nostalgia seem so alive.
Since I wrote about “The House That Heaven Built” at length in March, my opinion has changed – largely due to hearing it again in the context of the album. I previously found the song’s second half exhausting, but now find it exhilarating – particularly the line, “You’re not mine to die for anymore, so I must live.”
The album’s closer “Continuous Thunder” is the only mid-tempo track here, but it feels as direct and immediate and life-affirming as what came before it. It paints a picture of love as a brave proposition and features “yeah-yeah-yeah’s” that approximate continuous thunder.
“If I had all of the answers and you had the body you wanted would we love with the legendary fire?” King asks midway through the song, repeating the line to let it sink in.
When the album ends with fireworks popping in the distance I feel compelled to play it again. So I do. Over and over. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Japandroids it’s not to let the opportunity for more good times go to waste.