A beer, some friends, a gig and a song to sing while dancing wildly. Sometimes there is no better way to cure a broken heart or to get over the anxiety to be cool and fit in, especially during teenage years. Japandroids, were all about that: aggressive guitar riffs, hyperkinetic drums, tons of “ooooh” and a bold, lo-fi, punk-rock attitude. No bass guitar, no trimming, just pure rawness.
These ingredients, meshed up with undeniable passion and spontaneity, made Post-Nothing and Celebration Rock really great works, extremely fun to listen and, above all, sing along with the crowd, while Brian King and David Prowse run the stage and set the night on fire.
Their main goal at the time was, in fact, to “create a really great live record in the studio”, as they stated in a interview for Entertainment Weekly, being careless about the little flaws of their execution as they were performing live.
Five years later, with Near The Wild Heart Of Life, their third album, Japandroids decide to enhance completely the “limitless” possibility offered by studio recording, and realize their most polished record yet. And although this may sound like the opposite from what the Vancouver duo has done so far, this last effort is coherent with their musical career and signs the achievement of a greater maturity.
The contrast between the coarse minimalism of the instruments and the aggressive maximalism in the way they are played, hallmark of the band since its early releases, is not only preserved but better oriented in tracks like “Near The Wild Heart Of Life”, “Midnight To Morning” and “No Known Drink Or Drug”, in which the explosiveness of the refrain is builded up with more patience than before thanks to less linear arrangements. In “North East South West”, “True Love And True Life Of The Free Will” and “Body Like A Grave” instead, the duo introduces acoustic guitars and synths, winking an eye to The Replacements, refreshing their chemistry without spoiling it at all.
But the strongest change of route compared to Celebration Rock and Post-Nothing is certainly “Arc Of Bar”: a seven-minute track built on a heavy, distorted guitar loop and a synth, in which Prowse’s drum-line becomes more and more complex at the beginning of each of the five verses, with a precision and creativity he has never shown before. It provides the perfect catch up, after the “shoegazy” “I’m Sorry (For Not Finding You Sooner)” interlude, introducing the listener to the second half of the record with a restored energy.
“Arc Of Bar” is also the track with the more interesting lyrics of the entire record(which are often the weak spot in Japandroids music), and one of King’s writing darkest moment, describing the life of a lost soul in the night of New Orleans, in which even the mosquitos will get drunk if they try to drink the blood of the singer.
Near The Wild Of Life is the proof of how a band can grow mature and still being genuine, can explore new territories with decision and courage, not trying to sell to the listener a replica of its previous work nor choosing to become more charming to the mainstream market softening its sounds. Many things have changed since 2012’s Celebration Rock, but Japandroids’ passion for playing music is not one of them.
Full listen on Spotify below: