Monday, July 9, 2012

Japandroids Burns Up Celebration Rock

Celebration Rock seems an appropriate title for the Japandroids new album. After all, the East Vancouver duo had broken up, originally believing their self-financed Post-Nothing album was going nowhere.

So they made the decision to to self-release the album, but not promote it. That was until Unfamiliar Records took a last minute interest. They temporarily reformed, long enough to get a second lease on life with the Polyvinyl label.

To support the release, Brian King (guitars, vocals) and David Prowse (drums, vocals) agreed to keep things together through 200 shows and 18 solid months on the road doing the same material. But as soon as the tour was done, King and Prowse took a well-deserved break.

The downside to such a grueling schedule created another challenge. It had been impossible for them to write and record their next album. They did the best they could do instead, releasing several 7-inch singles in 2010, recorded during rare breaks on tour, and re-releasing two EPs (called No Singles).

Celebration Rock became their focus for an impressive follow up.

To get things moving again in the right direction, the band spent the better part of a year working with Vancouver-based producer/recording engineer Jesse Gander. Their efforts included six new songs.

The remaining two songs that would eventually be added to make an 8-track album included a cover and a previously released song. But that doesn't matter. Celebration Rock has the sound, raw energy and feel of being live in the studio, and that suits the Japandroids well.

The album starts out with the sound of celebratory fireworks, which are appropriate given the band really does have something to celebrate. All eight tracks provide insight into a more confident, perhaps more mature band.

The songs are sincere and slightly lamenting about the passage of time and growing older (King and Prowse are in their late 20s). It’s infectious garage rock that runs the gamut between celebration and loss, with a ton of emotion woven into every track. The guys lay their hearts on the line.

Highlights from Celebration Rock worth the listen. 

The anthemic The House That Heaven Built is filled with chunky guitar, urgently pounding drums, and a driving chorus. King’s yearning, plaintive vocals urge the listener to do something, anything.

It is arguably the best song on the album, and with good reason. Here’s a clip of the band performing the song live earlier this year at CAMP Basement, London.

The smoldering Continuous Thunder is also remarkable in that it’s hard to believe that this is a duo and not a five-piece band. It's almost unbelievable, given that there is no vocal tracking or overdubs here.

The cover, For The Love Of Ivy (by way of Gun Club), does even more to showcase the band’s punk side and great taste in music. Adrenaline Nightshift perhaps features the album's finest guitar work, complemented rhythmically with some solid drumming. And Younger Us, a great song on any measure, gets a retread. (It was previously released as a 7 inch.)

When King sings “give me the younger us,” he could be referring to anything: his innocence, a relationship, or an autobiographical reference to the band. It's one of many things that make them great. The duo has matured through the ups and downs of a turbulent year, but have emerged the better for it. Here's a sample of the song, dubbed over some live SXSW footage.

Garage rock is not meant to be accessible to everyone. But the Japandroids manage to make it so anyway with their optimism, intensity, and good-vibe feeling. In fact, as serious as they are as musicians, they manage to bring fun and passion to their music and their work without taking themselves too seriously.

Celebration Rock by Japandroids Rockets To 7.5 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

In case anyone is wondering, the band’s name is a blend two ideas. Prowse wanted to call the band Japanese Scream and King wanted to call it Pleasure Droids. Love the compromise.

You can find Celebration Rock By Japandroids on iTunes. You can find it on vinyl at Barnes & Noble. And the album, Celebration Rock, can also be downloaded from Amazon.

Coming up, the band will be performing at the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan on July 29. After that, they will be touring Europe through the end of September, with stops in England, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, and Denmark. They share tour updates and the latest news on Facebook, including a great collection of photos right from road.
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