Album: Celebration Rock
Rating: 9 out of 10
After the release of their 2009 debut album, Post Nothing, Japandroids duo Brian King and David Prowse almost called it quits on several occasions. With the reality of touring and the grueling cycle of promoting sinking in, the band realized that their dream of being in a band was a lot different than they imagined. “The battle between it being a dream and how hard it is to sustain the dream continuously and indefinitely,” Brian described in a recent interview with Pitchfork, “…it’s hard on the body.” Deciding to forge ahead rather than end it all, though, the band recorded their new album, Celebration Rock, at the end of 2011. It’s a fast, energetic album that is the best thing the band has ever done, and may even go on to being one of the best records released this year.
Japandroids’ songs have always been an energetic embrace of living in the moment mixed with the threat of experiencing a total existential crisis. While the latter half of that equation never threatens to derail the power and overall fun that each track has, it keeps them grounded. The album is only eight songs long and lasts little over half an hour, but there’s not a second wasted on it. Just like the feelings of youth the band emulates, the music is gone before you realize it’s over. Highlights include “Younger Us,” an insanely catchy tune that doubles as the most gloriously emo they’ve ever been, and “The House That Heaven Built,” which is by far the most epic thing they’ve ever done. All in all, though, the highlights aren’t distinguishable in their quality from the rest of the album because the rest of the album is just that good.
Most of the songwriting on Celebration Rock is pretty straightforward with each song sticking to only a few chords. Like a lot of two man duos in rock, simplicity is their strength. While there are a lot of artists out there now whose processes are appealing because they’re a mystery, Japandroids’ processes for writing music are appealing because they’re not. Japandroids are two averagely skilled friends who grinded away until they were great enough to make something happen only to talk about how fleeting moments where something happens are.
“There’s a difference between people who are born with that special thing and people who love the people who are born with that special thing so much that they want to try their best to get as close as they can to it,” Brian told Pitchfork, describing himself as the second type. This is why Celebration Rock is an incredibly human record, and one of the best releases this year. It’s from a group of averagely skilled guys that faced the grind over and over until they made something amazing only to realize they may never make something amazing again. And it’s that kind of uncertainty in the future with a glorious celebration of the present that defines the only things we can have in life.