Friday, December 28, 2012

Japandroids: Celebration Rock

Celebration Rock is a simple pleasure, but a real and valuable one. It sounds like a car roaring down a lonely highway, barreling through at twenty over the speed limit, windows open arms flailing out in the wind. This is not so much an album made up of individual songs that are great, but a great cachet of a sound, of thundering drums and roaring guitars that scorch and seem to multiply the longer they are left playing. It sounds like a triumph over humility: brash and bold and of course, celebratory. This is victory.

"Authentic" is a dumb word but they come by their thrills honestly, with anthemic chords and shout-along choruses, like "The Nights of Wine and Roses" and "Fire's Highway" and "Adrenaline Nightshift" and "Younger Us" and "The House That Heaven Built," never marred by overthought. They're all visceral and physical and instinctual. So many "Ohs" and "Yeahs." Albums rarely get made like this, because of the natural desire to flex creative muscles and go in a different direction with each song, but haven't you ever listened to a song and thought "That was awesome, put it on repeat!" Of course you have. And Celebration Rock does that for you by making the tracks themselves the repeat - with slight subtle new wrinkles each time to keep you interested. It puts you in that young, exuberant, energetic state of mind and keeps you there. The call-and-answer lyrics reaffirm every positive, defiant thing, and the mix lets those vocals sound like the sound of a distant crowd clamoring to be heard above the more immediate instruments, all-powerful guitars and propulsive, firework-like drums. The lyrics themselves underscore the mood of overcoming yourself and throwing yourself into the thick of it.

There are two tracks on the album that are distinct in any way, and they still fit the overall aesthetic of the album pretty damn well. One is the menacing southwestern-tinged "For The Love Of Ivy," which snarls a bit too much to be one of the album's highlights, and the other is the slow-burning "Continuous Thunder," which gradually slips us out of the fiery dream this album has created. It's the cherry on top.

I dig the single-mindedness with which this album approaches its music, and by committing to it wholeheartedly it becomes compulsively listenable, loopable, livable. Not (merely) an album loaded with great songs but an album built out of a great sound, like the bizarro world counterpart to the xx, where loudness and raucousness were a virtue, rather than spareness and restraint... but the result is oddly similar, a genuine, no distractions, piece of concrete.

This has been a loud year for me. Of the albums I heard in 2012 - not just the ones that came out this year - I've mixed in Sleigh Bells, Death From Above 1979, Pretty Girls Make Graves and Sonic Youth (as well as Dinosaur Bones and Naked & Famous, which weren't exactly lullabys.) Japandroids are by no means the loudest, but they are so dedicated to their sound that it's impossible to deny the power they wield. They strip away all extra bits that conventional wisdom would insist are important to any kind of music, scrubbing away any bit of self-consciousness about repetition or any pretense of self-effacement... this is trance-inducingly good, body-rockingly good, soul-movingly good. This is what we need. When they cry out for "Younger Us," that's exactly what they bring you with this music.

Buy this album now: iTunes Canada // iTunes USA // //

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