Japandroids, ‘Celebration’ – Album Review
While bookended by the sounds of height-of-summer fireworks, Japandroids’ sophomore effort, ‘Celebration,’ has pyrotechnics throughout. This is a concise, tight, raucous record, cutting a wide swathe through rock history, united by three emergent themes: every song is concentrated, every song is passionate, and every song is, more than anything else, loud.
What’s amazing is that this almost never happened. The Vancouver duo of guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse — both of whom share vocal duties — grew so frustrated with the British Columbia music scene that they called it quits before their debut, ‘Post Nothing,’ came out. Released independently in 2009, the curators over at Pitchfork praised the album, and the duo found a contract with indie stalwart label Polyvinyl. Suddenly they were playing a seven leg, 20-plus country, 200 show tour.
And then they took a break to make this record.
Beyond being a story of the power of the internet (and hipsters), this is also a story of two dudes who are honest, hardworking and awesome. The album covers for ‘Post Nothing’ and ‘Celebration’ are portraits of two friendly Canadians. This is, it seems, a tasteful update of the punk DIY aesthetic, a showcase of an “it’s just us” attitude. And this is what makes them so accessible: These are tracks that want to be sung along with — most of the songs are about drinking, girls and youth, the universal subjects of (male-dominated) rock ’n’ roll. In a way, this is deeply traditional.
The listen begins with ‘Wine and Roses,’ a balls-out celebration of inebriation and recklessness. They’re drinking, they’re smoking, they’re yelling like hell to the heavens. Hell yes. This is music that feels good to listen to — the enthusiasm is contagious. The “ooh oh ooh” choruses continue into ‘Fire’s Highway,’ a late-night speeder that begs you to “kiss away your gypsy fears and turn your restless nights into restless years.” This music makes you want to misbehave: run a red light, shotgun a beer, kiss a stranger.
Not all of it is quite so over the top, however. ‘Evil’s Sway’ takes a more introverted course before giving way to Tom Petty “oh yeahs!” and “all rights!” And the bent chords and distant vocals of ‘For the Love of Ivy’ create a bizarre blend of shoegaze and rockabilly.
In what might be the most awesomely titled song this year, ‘Adrenaline Nightshift’ lives up to its name. Kerouac-level images are sketched: hitchhiking to hell and back, busting guts on a rye dose of paradise, blitzkrieg love and a Roman candle kiss. Equally anthemic, nostalgia comes into full focus with ‘Younger Us,’ a ballad of “remember whens” and “woah oh ohs” buttressed by the band’s (and probably your) memories.
‘The House That Heaven Built’ is the most obviously relationship-based of any of the tracks, a drunken take on a breakup song: “You’re not mine to die for anymore, so I must live.” The tone taken is one of a flippant, wounded lover, still caring for the other: “When they tell you to slow down, tell them all to go to hell.”
The album closes with the Springsteen-like ‘Continuous Thunder.’ The Droids get all romantic, painting a scene of standing arm-in-arm in Pacific rains, he and his love singing out “yeah yeah yeah.” That’s ‘Celebration’ at its core: shared, affirmative, beloved.