This has been weird year for music. Rap is pretty much dead and this hybrid of hip-hop and pop has formed. Indie rock is more mainstream than what used to be alternative, which is now pretty much dead as well. And punk rock is reviving itself the way it did 20 years ago. To expound upon the oddities in this tenuous Mayan year I have liked so many damn albums that I’m beginning to feel like a fan boy.
Punk is not only coming back, it’s coming back with a vengeance. The other day we spoke of the Downtown Struts and now the latest by Japandroids, Celebration Rock, is here to blow your ear drums out. It is only eight songs, but oh what a collection of songs they are. What the Vancouver-natives have done is instead of giving you an album of six to eight great songs and four or five songs of filler they’ve condensed it to give you the stuffing without having to twist the top of the Oreo, they’ve done successfully what Elaine Benes never could: they’ve given you muffintop that sells.
They start with “Nights of Wine and Roses” and the first sound you hear is either fireworks or Jiffy Pop, I can’t decide. Then the drums fade in with feedback and a simple chord structure follows, then everything erupts with tales of drinking, smoking and yelling like hell to the heavens. It’s not like they’ve done anything different this time around as far as recording styles or even places. They recorded at the Hive in Vancouver with Jesse Gander exactly the same as they did with their debut album Post-Nothing.
So what’s the difference? Post-Nothing was a phenomenal album that Pitchfork awarded the Best New Album designation to in 2009, but it was raw, frantic, full of energy and crazy. This album is still frantic, still full of energy, but it’s less crazy and more like a controlled atmosphere. It’s brilliant in its conception. The whole idea is to capture the essence of the live show within the confines of an eight song album. Most bands couldn’t do it. They’d wilt under the pressure; they’d sound too rehearsed, too trite.
Japandroids, however, know what you want. Like a Siren on Anthemusa, Japandroids lure you in with their song and once they have you in their grasp they ruin every conception you’ve ever had about what an album is supposed to sound like. They turn you inside out with the glorious sounds of distortion. They get your blood flowing with songs like “Adrenaline Nightshift” and you expect this to be the pace so you start to get ready to do some crowd surfing, jump into a pit, and drink some beers. Then you get to “Fire’s Highway” and they slow it down a bit and you wonder what’s going on until that bass drum starts to kick and there you go again with your head nodding to the beat. Eight songs of sublime guitar driven angst and fun that once and for all make us “kiss away our gypsy fears”.