Japandroids, Celebration Rock
The musical landscape continues to evolve as genre-blurring artists ply their trade in a valiant attempt to create the next big thing. Terms like baroque-folk, moombaton, chillwave, and the ubiquitous and often hollow “indie-rock” have all worked their way into the musical lexicon in an attempt to classify styles devoid of any defining traits. Soon we’ll find that playing an actual song to be a more efficient use of our time over futilely attempting to answer the question, “What do they sound like?”
Leave it to our polite neighbors to the north to take a step back and embrace the simplicity of music. Despite a recent dip in popularity, pure, unadulterated rock is still rocking.
It’s been years since the Vancouver duo Japandroids released the much-celebrated Post-Nothing, a boisterous album of equal parts girls/booze and the problems that require a solution consisting of a strong dose of said girls/booze. Celebration Rock lacks the sense of unfulfillment that characterizes Post-Nothing, and in its place stands the drive to embrace the lessons of their new-found success.
In “Adrenaline Nightshift,” guitarist Brian King reflects, “Hitchhiked to hell and back / riding the wind / Waiting for a generation’s bonfire to begin”: for Japandroids, anything is better than waiting. This mantra is once again reflected in “The Night of Wine and Roses,” a rock anthem that touts the benefits of getting tanked with friends while waiting for the world to reveal its ultimate purpose.
Even the band’s nostalgia sinks back into a something-is-better-than-nothing attitude. Despite the band members being just under 30, the supremely excellent “Younger Us” whimsically pines for the days when a lack of responsibility was coupled with endless optimism. Obviously, this youthful combination culminates into waking up in the middle of the night to go out drinking.
There is a fair amount of lyrical clarity in Celebration Rock. After all, strong punk rock riffs and distorted vocals take precedent over any attempt to create heady, ambiguous lyrics. However, Japandroids is most successful when the theme is less simplistic. The dilemma of romance is touched upon in “Fire’s Highway,” a song that roars and crashes along the cadence of David Prowse’s drums.
“The House that Heaven Built,” a song built on the grandeur of musical simplicity, successfully complicates Celebration Rock by vaguely characterizing a broken relationship in a few anguished terms. Brian King wails, “But you’re not mine to die for anymore, so I must live,” only to respond with, “When they love you (and they will) / tell them all they’ll love in my shadow.” It’s this extra level of thought and maturity that distinguishes and elevates Celebration Rock over its predecessor.
Anything good, whether it is maturity or a fantastic album, takes time. Three years is a long time to create a relatively short 35-minute album. The long wait, however, has helped to create a much more compelling album. Despite being only the duo’s second album, Celebration Rock documents a shift away from musical adolescence. As a reward for their creative maturity, Japandroids have solidified their musical core beliefs: to create a breathless-paced, no-nonsense, and iconic rock album.