Japandroids - Celebration Rock
By: Rob Gannon
Celebration Rock is the album that was never meant to be. Its excellent predecessor Post-Nothing was the sound of a mid-20s duo throwing in the towel yet giving it their all and going out with an almighty bang. It captured not only the band’s hopes, fears and dreams, but it shone a mirror straight back at its audience. Just as Brian King and David Prowse‘s previous two EPs had been, these were identifiable songs that yelled about getting out of your hometown, drinking, getting girls (or not), being young and getting older.
The problem was the Post-Nothing was too good a sign-off, its rallying cries too loud to be contained in Vancouver, Canada, North America even. Word-of-mouth eventually took their mauling missive worldwide – and to ears that immediately demanded more.
Celebration Rock is the welcome result and on it Japandroids remain a rough-and-ready punk-rock twosome capable of astonishing turns of melody amid sense-shredding noise. Condensed into the same eight-track format as Post-Nothing, Celebration Rock is merely a precise extension of the past. There’s arguably a more refined level of production – Prowse no longer seems to rely on cardboard boxes by way of drums, King’s vocal is minutely clearer in the mix – but the pair are still all about shouting to-and-fro over peels of thunderous guitar and overblown drum rolls, living and breathing every air guitar/drum opportunity and laying down discernible party anthems with every massive chorus.
Fast out of the traps, the buzz-saw riffs and crashing kicks of “The Nights Of Wine And Roses” instantly prove what primal joy these two emotive noise-pop enthusiasts bring. “Fire’s Highway” opens with near-identical reverbed strumming to “Young Hearts Spark Fire” and its absolutely classic-sounding transatlantic punk-rock doesn’t disappoint as King crams more stumbling words into his the fast-tempo chorus than have any right to be in there. “Evil’s Sway” rips it up like there’s no tomorrow and the breakneck psychobilly cover of The Gun Club‘s “For The Love Of Ivy” is attacked with the same enthusiasm as was the older Mclusky cover “To Hell With Good Intentions”.
Side two is even better. The Hold Steady‘s intelligence is brought to mind during the sing-along “Adrenalin Nightshift” – a track to fall in love to as well as with – the boys now kissing like “roman candles“ rather than with tongues. There’s then the perfect one-two punch of the singles. Reputedly a Post-Nothing offcut, the 2010 single “Younger Us” here graduates to being included on the album, whereas the similar period single “Heavenward Grand Prix” does not. As enduring, endearing and anthemic as “Wet Hair”, it’s also a stage-invading, crescendo-on-crescendo riot that doesn’t seek to hide its age, commenting on the past directly instead: “Remember saying things like we’ll sleep when we’re dead“.
New single “The House That Heaven Built” is in turn a huge ball of unstoppable fuzz and ever-intensifying noise-pop with Prowse pumping out a militaristic drum part and King getting generous with the hooks – and its chorus is again pure celebration: “When they love you and they will / And they will / I’ll tell them all they’ll love in my shadow / And if they try to slow me down / Slow me down / I’ll tell them all to go to hell“. The slower tempo, more indie-rock-minded “Continuous Thunder” then brings down the curtain, acting as a release in tension via King’s spoken vocal and distorted guitar shards that rain down during a close littered with literal fireworks.
Japandroids have a rare energy. They don’t seem to function just as a band, but also a fist-pumping rite of passage. King and Prowse don’t seem to be just rock stars, but the best friends you’ve never formally met … and their Celebration Rock the best party you could ever hope to attend.
Advised downloads: “Younger Us” and “The House That Heaven Built”.
Celebration Rock is out now on Polyvinyl.