Japandroids 1, My Neck 0 At Bunk Bar in PDX

I am not too proud to say I rubbed Icy Hot on my neck after witnessing Japandroids’ scorching show at Bunk Bar in southeast Portland tonight. I jerked my head up and down like a dog whipping its favorite chew toy around in its mouth without concern for whether the plastic would hold together.

I don’t mention this for sympathy. No, I mention this because Japandroids, a guitar and drums duo from Vancouver, B.C., put on a dynamite show that transported me to 2009, the year I fell head over Chuck Taylor’s for their debut album Post-Nothing.

I’ve been privileged to witness a lot of great bands put on outstanding performances in many venues this year. Japandroids’ Bunk Bar show ranks near the top of the list. It was pure adrenaline. It was pure awesome.

Japandroids visited Portland Wednesday as part of their first tour of 2011. The band has spent much of the year prepping the release of its sophomore album, vocalist/guitarist Brian King told the crowd.

The band loaded the front half of their Bunk Bar set with tracks from their aforementioned second album. King seemed to suggest listening to the new songs were akin to a chore to be endured. It was almost as if he were saying, “Stick around. We’ll rock your face off in the set’s second half.”

Truth is Japandroids’ new stuff had much the same kick as their old stuff. They were catchy punk anthems. Or scream at the top of your lungs (if you know the words) and bang your head like it’s the whack a mole mallet affairs, if you will.

King did plenty of melodic screaming and artful headbanging. He is a tornado of enthusiasm on-stage. Drummer David Prowse is his less showy, but no less energetic partner in crime.

Together, they have a tremendous knack for crafting earworm hooks that when repeated over the course of a three- or four-minute song reach a frenzied point of discovery most bands would envy.

Per earworm hooks: I just about decapitated myself banging my head to “Wet Hair,” which the duo played in the set’s latter half. I could be 80 years old and in a wheelchair and I would still attempt to bang my head to that song. It’s just a wonderful musical achievement matched with perfect lyrics.

“We run the gauntlet, must get to France, so we can French kiss some French girls,” King shouts in a moment of euphoria on “Wet Hair.”

It was somewhere around this song where I noticed three girls to my right taking turns making out with one another. The girl in front headbanged during songs then made out with the other two girls in between the band’s 10-15 second breaks. I highly doubt they were French girls. (ha)

They weren’t the only ones into the music. There were plenty of people in the crowd of around 75 or so who were throwing their bodies around. And that was before Japandroids played its penultimate song, “Young Hearts Spark Fire.”

I find it hard not to gush about this song. Want evidence? Here is my original track review and my 2009 favorite songs list. Guess where “Young Hearts Spark Fire” ranked. If you said No. 1, you were correct.

When Japandroids played “Young Hearts Spark Fire” Wednesday night time seemed to stop. The song’s lyrics still hold true, especially in this age of uncertainty. “I don’t wanna worry about dying, I just wanna worry about those sunshine girls,” King and I shouted in unison.

Japandroids closed with a cover of Gun Club’s “For the Love of Ivy,” a song whose grit and smirking lyrics felt right in the former band’s wheelhouse. I slammed my head against the air, as if I had shoulder length hair again. Like I said, Japandroids took me back to 2009. Long live 2009! Long live rock’n'roll!

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