They’re just two dudes from Vancouver. Drums, guitar, a big open heart and the earnest self-involvement to think their poetry needs projection. Japandroids is a silly name for a very, very serious band. Brian King and David Prowse write songs about the way we’re supposed to remember rock music; drinking a lot, clinking teeth, campfires, crowdsurfing for the first time, driving with the windows down, staring at stars – all those blatant fantasies, that poetic American experience that only seems to exist in record grooves. Post-Nothing was big, loud, and magnetic, and Celebration Rock is bigger, louder, and magnetic-er. More anthems, more desperation, and more drugs – who knows (and who cares) if these guys actually were the wholesome runaway trains they represent, their vicarious vision is beautifully rendered, like a Hold Steady record from a ground-level perspective.
“IT’S A LIFELESS LIFE, WITH NO FIXED ADDRESS TO GIVE, BUT YOU’RE NOT MIND TO DIE FOR ANYMORE, SO I MUST LIVE” – I had similar thoughts in my notebook margins, but most things sound truer coated in switchblade guitar fuzz. These tracks are eight odes to purity, names like “Fire’s Highway,” “Evil’s Sway,” “Younger Us,” and “The House That Heaven Built” don’t lie. All worthy inscriptions for such weight – really the whole album boils down to the same cued moment. The galvanized woah-oh or oh-woah chorus and the fists-past-the-canopy ecstasy, it’s their not-so-secret weapon, and often their main ingredient – it’s hard not to lean into these hooks. A ruptured, careening guitar thunderstorm smiles on massive wordless togetherness, who needs a lyrics-book when you’ve got sweat, fervor and unbridled romance? Wholesale festival-scorchers are just the thing for such incredible disrespect for prudency. It’s most proper on “The House That Heaven Built,” the best song they’ve ever written, and the best song most people could ever hope to write. That messy drum-punch looks like a million kids stomping on warehouse floors, King’s voice serrated, eroded, the avatar of every high-school across North America. “Tell ‘em all to go to hell!” it might as well be “Everything is going to be alright.”
It’s not even all great, to be honest. Celebration Rock meanders through a groggy, caustic, and ultimately hookless middle-patch in “Evil’s Sway,” “For The Love of Ivy,” and the hilariously mall-rock fumble “Adrenaline Nightshift.” But it’s hard remembering the missteps after the blunt trauma of the best moments. This is life-affirming music built by two guys who beautifully believe in their own bullshit. It’s a monument to how we love to remember rock music, live music, bedroom-floor music, girlfriend music and boyfriend music. Celebration Rock is raw frenzy, tender love, and foolish cacophony. I mean, it’s also a fucking album, by a band, but rarely does something confront with that initial seduction. Japandroids articulate the tangled, theater-screen history of the youth experience through the colloquial rock-music storyline. It’s natural habitat from first spin. Most of us didn’t run away from home, but this is how we felt like it would sound.