Monday, June 4, 2012

Review: Celebration Rock by Japandroids

Additional reviews, lists and articles on my Arts page.
No, there’s nothing wrong with your speakers or headphones: that popping and cracking at the start of Japandroids’ kick-ass new album is the sound of fireworks – the perfect start for an album called Celebration Rock. And celebrate you should: this is raw, heavy, high-energy rock ‘n’ roll with a spectacularly full sound for a duo. Drummer David Prowse thrashes away like Keith Moon (and thumps the bass drum like John Bonham). Brian King dishes out distorted chiming, rapid strumming, crunchy riffs, feedback – whatever the song needs – filling the space above Prowse’s drums impressively. They both sing, with one taking the song lead and both usually jumping in on the simple, shouted choruses. There are elements of emo, hardcore, Springsteen, Clash – you name it – in their voices. But the volume and distortion can’t distract from the fact that they’re actually writing melodic pop. They’ve just chosen to execute it with frantic, hardcore energy, feedback and a “right to the edge of chaos” approach.

The sound of fireworks on the first track, “Nights of Wine and Rose,” are soon subsumed to thumping, rapid drums, and guitar feedback. Then King starts hammering away and the voices intertwine as they crash into this awesome tune. It’s a tour de force – but they’re just getting started: almost every song takes off like a freight train. (Closer “Continuous Thunder” is, I can’t really write “quieter,” but moves at a slightly less frantic pace.) The second tune, “Fire’s Highway,” is, if anything, even more energetic than the opening track – and remarkably moving when King rides high up the neck of his guitar during the instrumental before they break back into the chorus. “Evil’s Sway” has a shouted chorus of “Oh yeah, all right” that sounds like Tom Petty on speed.

Equally fast paced are “For the Love of Ivy” (a thrashing slice of hardcore rockabilly, distorted vocals and acid rock noise) and “The House That Heaven Built” (with a similar hardcore vibe and its background vocals give the song much of its energy and verve, along with Prowse’s rapid high-hat and tom work). And the lyrics of the latter song could stand as the band’s philosophy: “If they try to slow you down, tell them all to go to hell.”

My favorite track on the whole album is probably “Adrenaline Nightshift” with its high, moving guitar riff, and a great singalong chorus. The instruments drop out a couple of times during each verse, letting the voice finish the line before they drop back in with a high energy crunch. “Younger Us” is a close second!

If you listen to this record and don’t start bobbing your head up and down rapidly and/or feel the need to thrash around in front of a stage in a dingy club, you might want to try breathing on a mirror. Of course, music this high energy works like a defibrillator – so just keep listening and it’ll bring you back to life.

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