Title: Celebration Rock
Release Date: June 4th
“What gives this mess some grace unless it’s kicks, man?” So sang Okkervil River frontman Will Sheff on the bands 2010 song Unless It Kicks. And oh how right he was. It’s the chase for love, for life, for kicks - for anything that takes us out of the monotony of our everyday lives that makes this whole thing called ‘life’ worthwhile. It’s that thrill of letting everything going, of choosing to follow your heart rather than you head, that keeps us guessing, that keeps us feeling, and being, very much alive. Or the idea of it, at least. I expect if you could find a way to bottle the sound of that chase, of all the madness and sadness that those experiences bring, then it would sound something like Japandroids.
It’s been three years since the release of debut LP Post-Nothing, but the band have stayed in the spotlight thanks to a handful of singles released sporadically throughout their absense. It’s fair to say that the quality of those releases only further whetted the appetite for the bands sophomore effort (for the record, only Younger Us makes it onto the new album), and here we are finally with Celebration Rock.
Book-ended by the sound of fireworks, the album is indeed a celebration; a celebration of every brilliant thing the band have released thus far. While there is a lot to be said for development and exploring new ground, it doesn’t always have to be the case and the lack of it here certainly shouldn’t be held against a band who are still only on their second record. So, there is no real shift in dynamics or sonic textures on Celebration Rock, more a continuation of what made them so damn special first time around. Chunky and thrilling riffs, crashing drums that drive every song forward and enough arms-opened-wide, scream-along lyrics to write a book with. Fire’s Highway, for instance, showcases this pefectly;
“A NORTHERN SOUL IN SOUTHERN LANDS, WILL ALWAYS FIND ITS WAY TO SOUTHERN HANDS. SO KISS AWAY YOUR GYPSY FEARS, AND TURN SOME RESTLESS NIGHTS TO RESTLESS YEARS”
How can you not get completely lost in lyrics like that? How can you not sing along with every ounce of your breath? Hell, I couldn’t even bring myself to type it in lower-case.
Opening track The Night Of Wine And Roses perfectly sets the tone and offers a heady and blistering start to proceedings, while Evil’s Sway showcases Brian King’s new-found confidence with lyrics. While it would be very harsh indeed to say that the first half of the record is weak, it’s most definitely the closing trio of Younger Us, The House That Heaven Built and Continuous Thunder that steals the show. We’ve already shown our love for the former with this review back when it was released in 2010 and it still stands up as one of the most thrilling rock and roll songs of the past decade. Leading straight into Heaven… is perfect sequencing and it’s around this point that the everything falls into place and it begins to sink in just what a success Celebration Rock is. Continuous Thunder is probably the most intriguing track here, a song that nods to a more refined, fully-formed and, dare we say it, mature sound. Whatever it is, it’s fucking huge. Huge and completely majestic.
In relation to my opening paragraph; I’m starting to feel really old. For probably the first time in my life this feeling is actually becoming serious. I’m tired way more often. I’m worrying about things like the state of my bank account and my future aspirations. I’m regretting all the time I’ve wasted thus far. I’m even finding grey hairs for crying out loud. That chase and hunger for days and nights spent outside the norm becomes more necessary, but also more far more desperate and difficult to cling on to, like fiercely trying to recall a dream as it slips away or trying to keep that last ray of sun on your face before it finally drops beneath the horizon.
What Japandroids do more than any other band is not only soundtrack these events when they do occur, but also offer a glimpse inside them, reminding us that life really can be wild and dazzling and brilliant if we can just find a way to let go and allow ourselves the opportunity to go looking for it. It takes a special kind of band to remind you of that and that’s why Japandroids are the best band in the world right now.
Written by Tom Johnson