Japandroids - Celebration Rock

In their Progress Report interview, and in this Pitchfork interview, the two fairly unassuming late-20s dudes in Japandroids talk a lot about how they love touring and hate recording. Touring the world, for two guys from Vancouver who’d never had the chance, was a revelation, and so they went into the studio to record Celebration Rock just so they’d have an excuse to spend another couple of years on the road. The band had almost ended a ton of times, because they’d come close to breaking up around the time their 2009 debut Post-Nothing came out or because a perforated ulcer seriously threatened frontman Brian King’s health. So it was a fucking miracle that they got to meet people and play this music across the world, and they couldn’t wait to do it again. I like to think that I can hear that mad urgency in Celebration Rock. It’s an album that needs to exist so that the people who made it can return to this improbably glorious life, and it sounds like it.

Japandroids have also talked a bunch about how songwriting doesn’t come easily to them and how each song requires serious work, and you can hear that, too. Because virtually every moment on Celebration Rock seems calibrated for maximum punch-the-air-and-scream-along potential. Like that part on opener “The Nights Of Wine And Roses” where King belts out, “We yell like hell to the heavens,” a mid-song pause stretches out, and then “Hey!” when the instruments rush back in. Or this one from “Adrenaline Nightshift”: “Death’s got no respect for love and you’ve no respect for meeeeaay!” This is big, messy, emotive, heart-on-sleeve rock, every hook coming on like a headrush so extreme that you can’t even see.

I thought Post-Nothing was a reasonably fun bit of ’90s-indie pastiche, but the band didn’t really click with me until the 2010 single “Younger Us,” a tunefully feral burst of sentimentality from two guys just barely old enough to be feeling that ache for the first time. Celebration Rock, it turns out, just builds and builds on that feeling. It is music for drunkenly hugging your best friend, and maybe for crying while doing it. It’s great stuff.

Celebration Rock isn’t a particularly boundary-shattering or ambitious record, but it hits a primal chord with me like no album since Titus Andronicus’s The Monitor — obviously-smart guys writing big, dumb hooks, recording them to sound big and dumb and unstoppable. They deliver hooks like gigantic enthusiastic puppies show affection. With its eight songs rocketing by in 35 minutes, it works as a compressed machine-gun burst of raw-nerve energy and feeling. There’s one cover here, of the Gun Club’s “For The Love Of Ivy,” and it’s be pretty easy to play spot-the-influence with the rest of it. But that would be beside the point, since this isn’t an album about music; it’s an album about need and immediacy and getting shit off your chest. There’s no holding it back.

And the most reserved and quietest track here, closer, “Continuous Thunder,” shows that there’s plenty more to the band than enthusiasm. In that Pitchfork interview, they talk about how they wanted to write one song that wasn’t straight-up “blitzkrieg,” to see if they could make something less epic. Well, they can’t. Instead, they made something even more epic and resonant than anything else they’ve yet come up with. And if they’re capable of writing a song like that as a thought experiment, it’s almost scary to consider how great they could become if they can force themselves to keep recording albums.

Celebration Rock is out now on Polyvinyl. Stream it here.

Other albums of note out this week:
• Liars’ dread-infused synth-punk exploration WIXIW.
• Big K.R.I.T.’s long-awaited major-label debut Live From The Underground.
• Curren$y’s major-label weed-rap collection The Stoned Immaculate.
• Neil Young And Crazy Horse’s pointedly fuzzed-out folk-song collection Americana.
• Friends’ itchy, Brooklyn-steeped Manifest!
• Rapper/producer Oddisee’s smart, sound-addicted long-player People Hear What They See.
• d’Eon’s epically synthetic concept album LP.
• The Beach Boys’ full-length reunion with Brian Wilson That’s Why God Made The Radio.
• Oh No’s Rudy Ray Moore tribute Ohnomite.
• Crocodiles’ fuzzy psych-rock LP Endless Flowers.
• Teen Daze’s introverted dance-music debut All Of Us, Together.
• The Mynabirds’ sophomore effort Generals.
• Dntel’s latest beatscape Aimlessness.
• The Hives’ latest garage-rock opus Lex Hives.

Comments (24)

  2. I know im in the minority here but i didnt find this album totally infectious. Ive listened to it through probably like 5 times and younger us, the night of wine and roses, and continuous thunder are standouts but the rest of the album just feels like filler to me. I would give this week to Liars for sure

  3. thought AOW was gonna be Liars… then i totally forgot this just came out. a lot of us have been lucky to have some extra weeks with it… if u could burn a hole in a digital LP, i would have done it 4 times over by now

    premature evaluation of Hot Chip guys? please

  4. I agree with this pick for Album of the Week 100%. I wasn’t into Liars album at all, while this just fires me up and never lets go.

  5. This article inspired me to listen to The Monitor again and it’s even better than we all remembered. God bless Titus Andronicus. Celebration Rock is amazing too

  6. This post made me go listen to The Monitor again today, and it’s even better than I remembered it. One of the best albums of all time. Celebration Rock is super awesome too

  7. it was so good that you guys had to break the premature evaluation rule!
    but yeah, this is right around the top for me as far as albums go this year.

  8. Though I have to agree that this album is just perfect for summer, in the long run, I vote Liars WIXIW for a more satisfying listen in the long run. This one gets tiring quite fast

  9. I could freak out over the fact that you chose Celibate Rock over WIXIW, but you’ll find there’s nothing much behind it. Instead, I’ll leave you with a famous quote from our dear 16th president.

  10. This breaks the AOTW rule but The Walkmen’s “Heaven” doesn’t??? A little consistency guys.

  11. The President would like a word with you.


    • Never gonna get it, never gonna get it. I should probably ask how to post pictures on here before attempting again. I thought that I had surely found a method to the madness, but alas,victory escapes my grasp…I’m not going to freak out that Stereogum picked Celibate Rock over BlessYou, because you’ll find there’s nothing much behind it.

      On a serious note, I warmed up to Celebration Rock last weekend after it passed the Road Trip Test. Turns out I was doing it wrong by listening to it on headphones by myself. WIXIW on the other hand, hot damn!

  12. Yeah! Play it loud out the windows!!!

  13. An NPR commenter on an article about Celebration Rock claimed this wasn’t real music, especially when compared to the group “Fugazy.” That’s right, they misspelled Fugazi. I reported the comment as hate speech.

  14. As the bands name may have suggested already, this is pretty soulless to me. I really don’t see how anyone can like this and be taken seriously.

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