Missed The 50: Japandroids ‘Celebration Rock’
Missed the 50…
(Polyvinyl Record Co.)
Back in May, I spoke to Brian King from Japandroids about the Vancouver two-piece’s second record, ‘Celebration Rock’. He was adamant that, despite a fervent and ageing gaggle of enthusiastic journalists getting het-up about their songs of a lost wild youth, Japandroids are, “definitely not a band singing songs about glory days.” But then you look at the song titles and listen to the lyrics that King and drummer David Prowse are yelling, and that seems like quite a wishful, misguided statement.
‘The Nights of Wine and Roses’, ‘Younger Us’, ‘Adrenaline Nightshifts’… are these songs not about glory days, Brian? Even if they weren’t supposed to be? Are they not about nostalgia? Does the line, “Remember that night you were already in bed, said ‘fuck it’, got up and drank with me instead,” not make a certain brand of twenty- or thirty-something think of when they were still willing and able to do that? It doesn’t matter if it is nostalgic or if Japandroids really are singing songs about glory days. There’s something much bigger and better going on here.
If you ask me, Brian King is half-right. The songs make you feel nostalgic, but they’re not expressly about reliving romantic abandon. They’re among the most emotionally pure songs imaginable and, in some cases, extremely sad. ‘Younger Us’ (easily one of the finest singles of this or any other decade) doesn’t mythologise or pretend that ‘those days’ were necessarily better, it just tells you that no matter how much fun you did have, it’s over: “Give me younger us.”
The other main single from the album, ‘The House That Heaven Built’, finds Brian King and David Prose at their absolute vocal and physical limits. A breathlessly vigorous pummel of a song, it also shows King’s lyrics to have grown since the band’s debut: “I settled in slowly to this house you call home / To blood and breath, fear, flesh and bone.” Conflicts of earthly and celestial anchors weigh heavily on the album, giving a quasi-spiritual heft to songs more commonly concerned with getting shit-faced. It’s not easy being dumb, y’know.
Most impressive on this genuine classic record, though, is that throughout all of it King and Prowse never descend into neither mawkishness nor staple anthemia. The songs, just eight of them, feel tightly honed and perfected and at just over half-an-hour long, ‘Celebration Rock’ wastes none of its seconds. As Brian painstakingly explained to me on the phone, it’s an album designed to be played on guitar by teenagers, to soundtrack house parties, to make your shift go faster and to relinquish your inactivity. The sound of fireworks bookend the opening and closing of the album – the promise of a party beginning and, maybe more importantly, the poignant sound of one closing.