Album Review: Japandroids – Celebration Rock

It’s usually a record’s intricacies that allow people to connect with an album on a more personal level. It could be something as visible as an unusual phrasing of a lyric or something as small as the creaking floor on “For Emma, Forever Ago”, but when someone really loves an album, they embrace every inch of its sound and dive into it headfirst.

Then how can anyone truly love Celebration Rock? It’s clear within about 15 seconds of the record’s first track that these guys don’t specialize in subtlety (the album opens and closes with a recording of fireworks), the album only has one volume (loud), and most of the lyrics on the record are first-person confessionals shouted with no attempt at layered meanings whatsoever. (Example: “And we’re still smoking, don’t we have anything to live for?/Well, of course we do, but until they come true, we’re smoking.”) Brian King’s guitar is always turned up to eleven and David Prowse hits every cymbal like he’s trying to hit a home run at Wrigley Field. It sounds somewhat one-note on paper, but that’s exactly what the point is: they sound like they’re hitting every chord or striking every cymbal as if their lives depended on it because their lives quite actually depend on it.

Japandroids’ back story – where they nearly broke up after years of obscurity, decided to carry on provisionally when Unfamiliar Records took interest in their debut, and ended up riding a wave of blogosphere praise to get the outside attention they had always craved – makes even more sense here than it did in the press flurry surrounding their debut. These two have seized the golden opportunity with a death grip and refuse to let go, come whatever may. They’re fueling their musical Molotov-cocktail solely with their youth-driven insatiability, which is a more potent fuel than anything a major label budget could ever produce.

Appropriately so, their fiery, painfully honest reflection on youth is undoubtedly their greatest strength. Self-aware nearly to a fault, Prowse’s lyrics aim straight for the jugular with anyone who has experienced the combustible mixture of desire and confusion that comprises youth. And like so many things in youth, Japandroids’ music isn’t something that you can rationalize – it’s visceral and intense. You can only feel it. Songs like “Younger Us” and “The House That Heaven Built” are best experienced in the context of just rocking out without any premediation. Japandroids’ sound is massive because their garage is their arena and they are Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, and The Rolling Stones. All on one bill. Their energetic “oh oh oh”s aren’t ironic, they’re honest screams of joy. It’s all of these little (obvious) things that add up to make a record that embodies youth like nothing else released this year.

Celebration Rock is one of those rare records that doesn’t need a second listen to reveal its beauty because everything the duo has pumped into this record – creatively and personally – is laid bare with nothing to hide. There are no intricacies. There are no layers. It’s exactly what it says it is: a celebration of youth – and all the pitfalls and thrills that come with it – that, well, rocks. Besides, no one’s going to be sitting around deciphering the meaning behind Prowse’s words because – to truly connect with this record – they’re too busy living them, either vicariously or personally.

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