Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Japandroids Celebrate Rock

by Bill Reese
One could reasonably expect a two-piece band’s sound to be fairly minimalist. East Vancouver, BC’s Japandroids are anything but. The guitar/drum duo’s new LP Celebration Rock is a lesson in maximumism. Brian King’s clever, catchy guitar riffs and David Prowse’s loud, frenetic drums are all that’s needed to fill up every cubic inch of sound on this record. It’s an album about youth that somehow succeeds in capturing the essence of youth’s fleeting energy.
Celebration Rock follows the band’s brilliant 2009 debut Post Nothing. Rock is more calculated than its predecessor, especially lyrically. “Death’s got no respect for love, and you’ve no respect for me.” sings on the furious-paced “Adrenaline Nightshift.” King sings lead on most tracks, but the duo’s gang vocals are the glue that ties this energetic garage sound together. The gang vocals often serve as a smoother ballast to the harder edges in the rest of the music. The Oh-o-o-o-oh’s in “The House that Heaven Built” outdo King’s guitars, giving the lead single the sharpest hook on the album.
Young rock ‘n’ roll bands have a tendency to overdo their own craft. It doesn’t take much to make a song rock. You needn’t look any further than “Baba O’Reilley” to hear how powerful three chords can be. Japandroids know this well. The hooks aren’t complex, few of them are longer than 4 bars, and their sustained momentum propels every song forward. Anybody can write three-chord songs, but King and Prowse just make them so much fun. It’s a rambunctious, joyful noise, the kind of music that pushes you through the last leg of a half-marathon, or pumps you up on a car ride before a big night out on the town. It’s like a can of Red Bull for your ears.
Considering he handles all melodic instrumentation in the band, King’s guitar work is surprisingly efficient. While most songs do use a little bit of overdubbing, his multi-amplifier setup allows him to play multiple tones at once. For a band without a bassist, none of Japandroids albums suffer from an overdose of treble.
There’s a great feeling of yearning throughout the album. Songs about strained and displaced hearts (“Fire’s Highway”), teenage nostalgia (“Younger Us”), and the the pains of becoming an adult (“The House that Heaven Built”) coalesce around album’s overall youthful theme. “It’s a lifeless life with no fixed address to give, but you’re not mine to die for anymore, so I must live,” sings King on “The House that Heaven Built,” who then lets the next stanza sit silent, just to give the first one more that much more meaning.
Celebration Rock is not packed with as many gems start-to-finish as Post Nothing, but its five best tracks are better than anything the Droids have put out. At only 35 minutes, Celebration Rock is a short, peppy album that sounds small on the surface, but is densely packed with powerful guitars, booming drums and smarter lyrics than you’ll find in your average indie-noise-pop-punk duo.

*Bill Reese is the host of OFFICIALLY A PODCAST and is also a contributing writer for Officially a Yuppie.