Celebration Rock


Polyvinyl Record Co., , 2012


REVIEW BY: Melanie Love


Just in time for summer, Japandroids’ Celebration Rock (their second album, released in 2012) captures the spirit of the season in all its scorching, carpe diem glory. Beginning with the crackle of fireworks that opens the disc, this eight track, 35 minute collision of punk and reimagined classic rock burns bright but doesn’t fade away; these songs will stick with you, demanding repeated listens.  

Celebration Rock’s unbridled, restless energy makes sense considering the album almost didn’t get made at all. The Vancouver based duo of Brian King and David Prowse came to acclaim in 2009 with the release of their debut, Post-Nothing. They were on the brink of disbanding when the labels came calling, championing the band’s raw, honest sound and their equally impassioned live shows. After touring for two years in support of Post-Nothing, King and Prowse relocated to Nashville to settle in and try and pen the material for their follow-up. It was initially a struggle to get back into the flow, but over the course of six weeks, the pair came up with a batch of songs that surpassed even the strengths of their debut. They rejoined with producer Jesse Gander to put to disc material that would capture the passion and intimacy of their live shows – no double tracking or dubbing, just rock n’ roll in its purest form.

And that’s what Celebration Rock has in spades: dynamic, furious, honest and melodic rock songs, songs that capture that fleeting summer light and serve as an apt metaphor for the need to live life to its fullest while you still can. This attitude is no better emblemized than in the album’s lead single, “The House That Heaven Built,” a fist-pumping call to arms that swells with raucous instrumentation and an indelible chorus: “When they love you (and they will) / Tell them all they’ll love in my shadow / And if they try to slow you down / Tell them all to go to hell.” King’s vocals are a raw, stripped-bare shout amid the “oh oh oh”s, and it’s a blitzkrieg of sound anchored by the cracked poetry of the lyrics.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Song after song, Japandroids create a unique amalgam of sound, a mash-up of loose, ramshackle garage rock, lush song structures, and choruses that have a pop sensibility, inspiring you to sing along out of the window of a fast moving car. Opener “The Night Of Wine And Roses” is at once blistering and openhearted, while “Fire’s Highway” and “Evil’s Sway” continue the tone of fiery lyrics and Prowse’s breakneck drumming. Meanwhile, “For The Love Of Ivy” is a well-chosen Gun Club’s cover, stretching their sound into the menacing spit of punk fury that provides a nice diversion from wearing their hearts on their sleeves and yowling into the stratosphere.

And yet, this idea that rock is salvation, that a four-minute crash of cranked-up guitars and a glorious chorus are enough to make life worth living comes through so strongly in the Japandroids’ music that it’s hard not to go along with it. On “Younger Us,” King implores, “Gimme that night you were already in bed / Said ‘Fuck it / Got up to drink with me instead,” and it’s a fascinating dynamic between being young enough to know that the party is still raging but growing wise to the fact that it won’t last forever – but until that light finally fades, we’re gonna keep living. When Celebration Rock comes to its glorious end on “Continuous Thunder,” it’s not in a careening whirl of more frantic rock. Instead, the pace is slowed down, reflective, quenching the flames for a moment to ponder: “If I had all of the answers / And you had the body you wanted / Would we love with a legendary fire?” It’s a perfect, fitting end, showing the growth and maturity of Japandroids’ ethos.

Celebration Rock strikes a fine balance among all its elements and never overstays its welcome; instead, it’s a record that should be listened to over and over. Its thirty-five minute runtime is perfect, allowing Japandroids to flesh out their sound without tipping the balance into an overkill of fire-related metaphors. As the album fades out in a sea of fireworks just as it opened, there is the sense that we’ve arrived somewhere different, destined to seize the fading light while it’s still shining.

Rating: A-

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© 2014 Melanie Love and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Polyvinyl Record Co., , and is used for informational purposes only.