Tuesday, June 05, 2012

REVIEW: Japandroids - Celebration Rock

Japandroids - Celebration Rock

In 2009, Vancouver duo Japandroids (guitarist/singer Brian King and drummer/singer David Prowse) released their debut album, Post-Nothing, a unique blend of fuzzed out, distortion-heavy guitar muscle and air drum-worthy percussive weight that matched ‘90s rock ‘n’ roll volume and tone with garage rock’s blistering, energetic edge. It was one of the most critically acclaimed releases of that year, which inevitably lead to questions as to what would come next. It’s a rare occurrence when a band riding a wave of buzz is able to follow up their buzzworthy debut with an album that’s even better, but Japandroids have done just that with their sophomore outing Celebration Rock.

Post-Nothing was originally intended as more of a swan song than a debut, but the overwhelmingly positive response to the album changed things. King and Prowse suddenly found that this band was something that people felt a strong connection with, something that people found inspiring and exciting. Celebration Rock opens with the sound of fireworks bursting and crackling in the sky, an almost inadvertent symbol of the duo’s newfound pride and enthusiasm for their craft. And while Post-Nothing was an impressive, strong set of songs, Celebration Rock finds Japandroids sounding increasingly confident, bigger, more rousing, more mature, and a lot more significant. This is no longer a band making a name for themselves, this is a band with a modern day classic on their hands in much the same way Braid had Frame & Canvas and The Dismemberment Plan had Emergency & I.

There’s always been something inherently freeing in Japandroids’ songs. It’s the inspiring force of two good friends playing as hard and as passionately as their bodies will allow, wrangling in a world of emotions that are just as relatable as they are monumental – at least that’s how King and Prowse make it feel. Celebration Rock is visceral, emotional, exciting, powerful, but most of all, memorable. It plays out like a soundtrack to all of the best memories, whether they be bad or good ones. It’s the sound of determination pulling you through, of conquering any and all obstacles; it is triumphant without the pretense or the overindulgence.

Each track stands out in its own right, even the band’s cover of the Gun Club’s “For the Love of Ivy.” Opener “The Night of Wine and Roses” builds and builds to an eruption of epic tremolo picking, laying the cornerstone for an album that pretty much epitomizes the word “anthemic.” The explosive “Evil’s Sway” is an unrelenting barrage of guitar chord ring outs and pounding rhythms that’s hard not to lose yourself in. The aforementioned Gun Club cover is a slight departure from the other tracks, but with its inescapable ferocity, volume, and distorted crunch it falls perfectly in line with the band’s loud, energetic, passionate M.O. Album closer “Continuous Thunder” sees the band taming those fast-paced, high volume punk-meets-garage rock tendencies, which adds finesse as well as an additional layer of depth to Celebration Rock and illustrates just how much Japandroids have grown.

From the first crackle of fireworks to the last, Celebration Rock is a classic. It’s well-paced, incredibly well-executed, and only seems to get better with each listen. Some might consider labeling Celebration Rock a classic a bit of a stretch, but what else do you call an album that moves from song to song without losing momentum, is built on a foundation of memorable, engaging riffs and melodies, and, most of all, bears repeated listening? Classics aren’t always just the albums that redefine a genre or offer up a never-before heard sound; sometimes the classics are the albums that perfectly embody the essence of our lives, our most treasured memories, and the perfect high of emotional bliss. Celebration Rock captures a youthful brilliance that reminds us that it’s not the count of the years that matters most, it’s what we hold onto from all those years that have passed by.

Listen @ SoundCloud

Celebration Rock is out today on Polyvinyl Records. Pick it up here.

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