Japandroids Celebration Rock(Polyvinyl Record Co.) Buy it from Insound
Fireworks sizzle, drums sound, guitars flare. From beginning to end, Japandroids (singer/guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse) pull all the stops for Celebration Rock, an eight-song (well, seven) collection of indie rock party music. Following the acclaim of their debut LP, Post-Nothing, their second album encapsulates those moments we all share, when all seems right with the world, the atmosphere plies us with euphoria and our company couldn’t be more perfect. The Night of Wine and Roses motors through the works till they fade, King opens with, “Long lit up tonight/And still drinkin’!/Don’t we have anything to live for?/Well, of course we do/But, until it comes true/We’re drinkin’!” Sums up perfectly that “live for tonight” feeling we all know, when the moment means everything and tomorrow can go fuck itself.
There’s a romance to Celebration Rock propagated by Japandroids, from its most rebellious (The House the Heaven Built) to its most sentimental (Younger Us), that reminisces about the days of long ago when rock music soundtrack’d our youthful preoccupations with dancing, courting and shedding the day’s responsibilities. In an effort to distance itself from FM radio’s largely superficial and mediocre playlists, which typically revolve around “party people at the club” or the consumption of some brand name alcoholic beverage, rock music (especially from an “indie” sense of the word) has become the serious music.
Now, this is understandable. Injecting “fun” into punk rock gave us pop punk. Injecting “fun” into metal gave us hair metal. It’s bad enough that alternative or indie music have both taken on soulless permutations thanks to bad FM radio, MTV, record industry oversaturation and mishandling by PR types hoping to appeal to fans outside the demographic. Injecting “fun” into either would deprive both of any authenticity, not that it has much now, anyway.
And, while I understand the good times are largely supplied by both bubblegum pop and dance jams, it seems to rock’s detriment that it’s become either the music of angry motherfuckers, students of the avant-garde with something to prove or sad “whoa is me” pussies. I found Celebration Rock, at first listen, super cheesy and nostalgic to a fault, any notion of “celebration” sounding forced and to the expense of any cerebral component Japandroids has been typically known to provide. The sound of fireworks? Unnecessary unless you think your fanbase is completely incapable of deciphering a straightforward rock album.
But, the more I listened, the more I realized my opinion was influenced by a perception: that a band can’t just make good rock music without some irony, or make a decent album without some esoteric device. Pop music draws people in because it’s catchy; it has a hook. With that in mind, there was a point in time when being accessible and hook-driven had a legitimacy that transcended the personal preferences of either casual listeners or fully schooled music appreciators, so why not bring the pros of pop music into a good time album from a band apart from the good time crowd? And this isn’t to say Japandroids are the first indie-associated band to do this, but the focus of their album is in its title and the adrenaline is in its grooves. They're running with it, unhindered by any preconceived notions regarding the type of music they should be making.
Fire’s Highway can convince you that this is a good idea, its tempo high and its poise alive. The bumpy Evil’s Sway maintains stride, “oh yeah” obligatorily followed by “alright,” and Adrenaline Midnight sounds like the drinking song Dinosaur Jr. should’ve written.
The album’s highpoint is the aforementioned The House That Heaven Built, an anthemically charged dance punk tune that latches on and hangs out. The song provides Celebration Rock its last rush before being slowed up by the closing rock ballad, Continuous Thunder. The fireworks begin again; some snaps and crackles to end the album as it began.
The odd man out here, though, is the Gun Club cover, For the Love of Ivy. Not that it’s a bad interpretation of the song, but it doesn’t fit into the scheme of the album. Still, its inclusion doesn’t interrupt the flow as Celebration Rock’s high-tempo riff rock concerns itself with energy and embraces our serendipitous run-ins with those good times worth remembering.5 June, 2012 - 16:36 — Sean Caldwell