June 2012 seems like a lifetime ago. Technically speaking, if you’re five years old then it was a lifetime ago but research suggests that pre-schoolers make up a very small percentage of this websites demographic. However, the London Olympics were still just around the corner, Donald Trump was no more than a cartoon reality TV celebrity and the Higgs boson particle sounded like a Half Man Half Biscuit b-side. June 2012 was also the month Japandroids dumped the earth-shaking Celebration Rock upon us; 8 tracks of frenetic energy which chronicled the age-old themes of love, loss, drinking and the abandonment of youth. It was my best-loved record of that year and I wasn’t the only one captivated, if you somehow missed it then I can only assume you’ve been buried deep underground near Geneva building a Hadron collider.
Brian King and David Prowse promptly toured the planet incessantly, thrashing out seismic chunks of no-nonsense garage rock until they were probably sick of the road, the album and each other. Three years came and went. Nothing. Did Japandroids still exist? Or were they working on a triple album conceptual opus? Nearly five years after their previous outing here we are again, with Near To The Wild Heart Of Life, eight further tracks of love, loss…oh you get the picture. However, I’m going to take issue with the PR blurb which accompanies the release, whilst I agree that many awesome rock albums have only contained eight tracks, I think you’ll find the Vengaboys Xmas Party Album also weighs in with same number. In my simple world, if it takes you five years to concoct a shade over 30 minutes of music you either have writers block or you simply couldn’t be arsed. I’ll be kind and suggest they have exceedingly high quality control standards.
The title track opens proceedings with an onrushing build-up of percussion which climaxes like a thousand stampeding cattle before the trademark crash of Kings’ guitar careers through four minutes of lamenting about the emotional pain of leaving your hometown even if that means Vancouver, one of the worlds most desirable cities. Lyrically (and I do love a well crafted dramatic monologue) it’s tough to get aroused by the refrain “I used to be bad/Now I’m good” but Japandroids aren’t in the market for an Ivor Novello, their purpose is to fill your head with unforgettable renditions of “Whoooah/Whoooah” as you punch your first through the ceiling/car roof/experimental underground laboratory. The follow up, ‘North East South West’ not only reveals their knowledge of geography fundamentals but offers a partial explanation for their lengthy hiatus; they simply visited everywhere that would have them and the world is a bloody big place.
At over seven minutes ‘Arc of Bar‘ is the fulcrum to the album, as it lollops drunkenly into view and doesn’t have the decency to sober up by the time its conclusion arrives. It ambles along just waiting to be kick-started into life and perhaps therein lies the difference between Near To The Wild Heart Of Life and Celebration Rock; the former is just a bit too…welll…polite. Don’t get me wrong, this is yet another consummate collection of sing-a-long, shouty anthems but there is restraint here too. Only on current single ‘No Known Drink Or Drug‘ does the hand brake totally come off and the lads propel themselves at breakneck speed as if searching for the God particle itself. If all this sounds like I have a major downer on the album, you’d be way off the mark. I love it and I have little doubt I’ll still be playing it to annoy the neighbours whilst hanging up my mistletoe in December. But when you spawn a modern classic like Celebration Rock then everything that follows will only ever sparkle intermittently in a realm of dull sepia. I can barely wait for the next installment in 2022.
Near To The Wild Heart Of Life is released on 27th January on Anti- Records