When they released their debut album, “Post-Nothing”, in April 2009, Japandroids decided to make the subsequent tour as long as possible. It was what they'd always dreamed of. Playing live is all they ever wanted, unlike many other bands, who complain they have to play live all the time in order to stay alive. But after a year and a half of taking their incendiary live show around the world, they had to go home. And, even though there's an upside to going home (like, taking a break, seeing the family, going for drinks with friends), they took it as a setback. Fully aware that the only way they would be able to get back on the road was to record a new album, Brian King and David Prowse dedicated the better part of 2011 to doing just that. And though they admit they had a hard time, because they don't consider themselves to be songwriters, they managed to shape their second full-length, “Celebration Rock”, which is heavily influenced by their stage experience. “On a lot of this new record, we actually tried to simulate the sound of what we thought the crowd would do during the songs. Dave and I were in the studio just screaming out as if we were in the audience at our own show”, said Brian King about the effort.
The record is conveniently titled “Celebration Rock”, because it's exactly that: an exalted celebration of rock. Not a tribute - a party, straight up. Unlike the other guitar-drums duo they've often been compared with, No Age, the Canadians take the fast lane of getting the listener all fired up with some explosive and euphoric songs that will have the crowd going mental at their gigs. Their rock is noisy and seemingly simple; no experimental passages for this Vancouver duo, just eight slices of uncontrolled energy, with a production that cleans up, without overdoing it, the blurry sound of “Post-Nothing”.
And if the idea of a celebration isn't clear enough in the title, Japandroids decided to use the sound of fireworks at the start and finish of the album, to enhance what's in between. And the position of “The Nights Of Wine And Roses” and “Continuous Thunder” can't be a coincidence, either. The former follows the path of “Post-Nothing”: distortion, unforeseen increases of volume, violent instrumentation and the classic “oh-oh-oh-ohhh” to get punters all over the world going. And the latter reveals a side of the twosome they hadn't shown too many times before: a mid-tempo track, epic, with some brilliant percussion evoking the thunder from the title, and some of the best lyrics they've ever written: “You took my hand / From the cold glistened rain / Dressed with the knives / Arm in arm with me / Singing out loud yeah yeah yeah / Like continuous thunder”.
There are some changes on “For The Love Of Ivy”, too, though in this case it's pretty obvious. The track is, of course, a rendition of the song by The Gun Club, performed by so many bands over the past few decades. Japandroids decided to do a classic garage punk version, on which the vocals create a dialogue with the guitar and drums. For some reason - which could be a lack of material, or just the fact that it's the best song they've written so far - they included their brilliant 2010 single “Younger Us” on their second album. Just about everything's been said about this three and a half minute hurricane. If you see the damage it can do when played at home, just imagine the havoc it wreaks live. Furthermore, lyrically it's one of the band's finer moments, not only because of the theme (the first days of a love affair), but also because of those two simple but very true lines: “Remember that night you were already in bed / Said ‘fuck it’, got up to drink with me instead”.
Some people might say all their songs sound the same. And they may be partly right, if all you focus on is the onomatopoeic screams and the common but insultingly effective “oh yeah, alright!”s of “Evil’s Sway”. But every time you get to the guitar riffs come fireworks of “Continuous Thunder”, one image springs to mind: you, your best friends, your HEALTH T-shirt soaking in sweat, hyped and bruised after the umpteenth stage dive, voiceless after screaming along to each and every song. And that's exactly what Japandroids want. See you at their next gig.