Verdict: 5 / 5
Japandroids are a two-man garage rock band from Vancouver. The label is erroneous because no garage could withstand the sort of energy they expel. Even if it could, the reckless abandon implored by their music means the crowd would bring the walls down quicker than Samson. For two guys they make an immense and life-affirming noise. Celebration Rock is their second album after 2009’s Post-Nothing. It opens and closes with the sound of fireworks; what occurs for the half hour in between is a victory lap ran at the pace of a sprint.
The outline for their approach was forged on Post-Nothing, which could fittingly be summarised with the first single’s title: ‘Young Hearts Spark Fire’. It was raw and flooded with a yearning for youthful commotion. Celebration Rock leans away from nostalgia though; it’s triumphant and fixated on youth not as a lost relic, but as a disposition to be wielded. That sort of outlook could be passed off as naïve were it not delivered which such admirable conviction and infectiousness force. Granted, this is a band that on early outtake ‘Coma Complacency’ carried almost an entire song on the repeated delivery of an inciting “Hey!”
Brian King’s guitar work is as fuzzy and full throttled as ever, and drumming from David Prowse still comes at the same astounding velocity. What elevates Celebration Rock above it predecessor is how it manages to capture a clearer, more vibrant cohesion between the two. There has also been noticeable lyrical development, allowing them to better articulate their doctrine of unrestraint. It proves to be an utterly convincing one throughout.
‘The Nights of Wine and Roses’ is a rallying, boisterous opener, exploding at its end with a line that drives home the album’s forward-looking perspective: “We don’t cry for those nights to arrive/ We yell like hell to the heavens.” The intensity doesn’t let up through anthemic ‘Fire’s Highway’ and the ballistic pace of ‘Evil’s Sway’. The back-end of the album really sees Japandroids in full stride. Massive first single, ‘The House That Heaven Built’, is a strong statement of intent. Along with contagious fist-pumping “oh ohs”, King finds clarity singing “It’s a lifeless life/ With no fixed address to give/ But you’re not mine to die for anymore/ So I must live.” Whether it’s the bouncing guitar fuzz of ‘Adrenaline Nightshift’ or the endearing lyrics heard on ‘Younger Us’, it’s appealing how little analyzation is required to participate in the fun. Like previous efforts, Celebration Rock is composed of relatively simple songs, but here they are presented in a way that grants them a quality nothing short of vital.
With the exception of ill-placed cover track ‘For the Love of Ivy’, Celebration Rock is essentially without flaw. The album is refreshing in that it transcends nostalgia; it serves as a liberating attack on the present with the inexplicable whims of youth. You are unlikely to hear a more propulsive argument for letting go.