YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES!
Six of the most boring musical months in recent memory waiting for THIS RECORD RIGHT HERE, a record worth giving a crap about, a record that’s just a chest-bursting eruption of rock and roll, having no idea when it was coming or who was going to fucking make it and wake me the fuck up already …
And in retrospect, of COURSE it was going to be Japandroids. I’m a very mediocre horse player, too lazy and scared of my obsessive-compulsive nature to go all-in degenerate and study the racing forms every day while the rest of my life just sort of fades into the background. But Handicapping 101 says you look for the horse in the race whose form keeps getting better. That’s why we should have pegged 15-1 I’ll Have Another as a legitimate Triple Crown threat. That’s why Japandroids should have been an obvious candidate to make a “HOLYSHITWHENDIDTHEYGETTHISGOOD???!!!!!” record, like Titus Andronicus a couple years ago. Not being a better judge of these things is why I lose more money than I make on the ponies, but like the old line on porn, I know it when I see it, when I hear it. All due respect to everyone and everything else I have or haven’t written about in 2K12: this, THIS, RIGHT HERE, is the only record on Earth that I care about anymore, at all. There’s no point in enumerating the year’s disappointments or overrated snoozers, because Japandroids have just obliterated them all in eight songs, an efficient and ebullient thirty-five minute heart attack rendering the first half of the year completely meaningless. All discussion of The Year in Music 2K12 officially begins with “Celebration Rock,” and might end here, too.
The difference between “Celebration Rock” and Japandroids’ very awesome 2009 debut “Post Nothing” is the difference between the White Stripes banging away in their garage on “White Blood Cells” and the White Stripes expanding into a Seven Nation Led Zep Army on “Elephant”; it’s the difference between “Separation Sunday’s” scat-sketches and the panoramic State-of-The-Youth-Union of “Boys and Girls in America”; it’s the difference between Titus Andronicus’ early petulant fury and the “Born to Run” nomads waging war on “The Monitor”; it’s that jump, that leap, that record on which everything you loved about a band seems to coalesce around what they do best -- here: fast, loud, life-affirming punk pop -- while at the same time expanding into something grander than you’d ever expected -- here: sing-along area rock punk so epic and enthused and enthused about BEING enthused that if my beloved friends and family weren’t so lame I would play this entire album uninterrupted at my wedding next month, just to watch the bodies bounce and the fists pump and to see who survives all the way to the lovers catharsis on "Continuous Thunder" and who just drops dead somewhere between the psychobilly freakout rattle of "For the Love of Ivy" and the NOS-injected "Adrenalin Nightshift." I guess I’ll have to settle for “The House that Heaven Built” -- Oh! Oh! Oh! OH! Oh!-Oh! Oh! Oh! -- and people interrupting my awkward, drunken flailing the whole time asking me, “Who IS this?”
This is Japandroids, maybe the least cynical punk rock band since ever, in part because they’re a couple Canadians, and what do Canadians have to be cynical about? The short answer: not much, but don't mistake "Celebration Rock" for some mindless hoser bacchanal either. Dislocation, both the road-weary and the Shit I'm 30 kind, pops up again and again on the album, and again and again, Japandroids lose themselves in the joy of the journey rather than wallow in a few gray hairs. "Do we have anything to live for?" is a common punk rock question; "Well of course we do!" is a less-typical punk rock rally cry. "Fire's Highway" addresses the whole US-Canada thing with refreshing neighborly gratitude for the restless hospitality of the touring life, and for the fifty-car, cross-continental pile up of kinetic energy a good rock show can create. There’s nothing wistful about the “Remember whens” on “Younger Us” -- Japandroids turn reminiscence into a late night resurrection, like they’re answering prayers from all James Murphy’s friends, like they’re standing over your bed tearing off the sheets and screaming, “I don’t care what time you have to get up tomorrow! This next song is REALLY awesome!”
And then “The House that Heaven Built’ more than fulfills the promise of one more last night out, more than transcends mere awesomeness -- it’s rock and roll pure and powerful and hopeful enough to make you remember why cliches about “rock and roll as salvation” exist in the first place, a song that makes you believe in songs again, makes you believe that three stupid minutes of music really could slap your lazy face and inspire you to, I don’t know, climb a fucking mountain and shout “Tell them all they’ll love in my shadow!” to high heaven.
On “Celebration Rock,” Japandroids ascend into a rock and roll nirvana of their own construction, and the vicarious rush you get from hearing a couple guys fulfilling their own rock god dreams by making an album for the ages, carries you right up there with them. The specter of middle age looms, but Japandroids really believe their music can slay evil, fill the dark corners with light, banish the past, brighten the future, keep us all young.
Amen, I say.
Joey Tayler is the lead writer on Rocksposure.com. Based out of Milwaukee, WI, he is always looking for a new show to see. If there is something you think he should be listening to, send him an email at JoeyT@Rocksposure.com