Premature Evaluation: Japandroids Celebration Rock
A couple of months ago, someone I follow on Twitter posted a video of some kids goofing around in their basement/rec room area to the soundtrack of Japandroids’ “Younger Us.” Even though the footage was randomly cobbled together, and there isn’t really a narrative to speak of, and at least one of the kids is wearing one of those tie-dye Grateful Dead t-shirts that have long plagued the halls of America’s public high schools, it feels supremely cathartic and perfect. No matter what Japandroids do for the official video, there’s no way they’ll create something that communicates their music more effectively than this capsule. I don’t know if the kids are stoned, or if they’re sober, I just know that something about the juxtaposition of “Younger Us”‘s straightforward nostalgism — “Remember saying things like “We’ll sleep when we’re dead” / And thinking this feeling was never going to end” — and the song’s tone, a sort of smile back to the past, conveys the inexpressible. Youth, power chords, a steady percussive anchor, wide-sweeping hooks pilfered, but sharper and infectiously tuneful, from the garage rock gods.
These are some words describing Celebration Rock, but I only need two (arguably three) characters — “Oh!” “Oh” is on here a lot. One of opener’s “Night Of Wine And Roses” hooks goes “Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh OH OH!” The second track, “Fire’s Highway,” has one that goes “OH OH OH OH OH OH!” There’s so many “Oh’s” on the record that I’m sure Fader will tabulate them for an installment of By The Numbers (fistpumps should be counted too, but I guess that’s a little tougher to track down. An average based on a sample works though? Or a median fistpump #?). Celebration Rock‘s lyrical content is unfussy and evocative, worthy of that lowbrow/brilliant corner of the approval matrix — “When the soul of the city / Was laid to rest,” “We yell like hell to the heavens,” some stuff about train tracks, you know. Stuff like that. Outside of the kind-of misstep of Gun Club’s “For The Love Of Ivy” — it’s a pretty stock garage rock rumble in the lane of something like Japanther or Bass Drum Of Death or maybe early White Stripes, a hollow rip of whoever those guys might be ripping off — Japandroids don’t waste a spare second getting in and out of their big, wide-sweeping hooks and stupendously catchy riffs. The run of “Adrenaline Nightshift“-“Younger Us” (been around a while but it still slays)-“House That Heaven Built” is, with respect to some solid runs on the Screaming Females record, the most \m/ moment so far this year. Please excuse me for going there.
A couple of former colleagues/buddies and I were on an e-mail chain recently pontificating on the merits of Japandroids, and the friend who knew the least e-mailed, “So weird w/ this kind of rock b/c it’s either just very obviously great and you can tell in five seconds, or it’s not; there’s no disputing it. Japandroids def have that legit spirit.” Though there’s nothing as good as “Young Hearts Spark Fire” on Celebration Rock — that’s an all-timer — it’s chock full of that same exuberant immediacy outside of the solid comedown of “Continuous Thunder” — a concise, sinewy record you can’t help restart once it concludes. Whatever the Japandroids are trying to say to you, they’re not wasting any time doing it. What are you waiting for?
Celebration Rock is out 6/5 on Polyvinyl.