, June 7th, 2012 10:27
In his novel The Informers, Brett Easton Ellis tells the interconnected stories of various pretty young things in mid-1980's California. Consumed by debauchery, casual betrayal and cosmetic improvement, the novel's characters exist amid a widespread assault on the soul. "Things falling apart", Ellis writes, "fading, another year...a boredom so monumental it humbles". Japandroids, despite hailing from Vancouver, also speak to the excess and strife of sundrenched youth. Thankfully, they refuse the depressive cynicism that pervades Ellis' novel.
On debut album Post-Nothing, Brian King sang "I just wanna worry about sunshine girls, I don't wanna worry about dying". The duo's second album sees the band imbue that boyish zeal with greater emotional complexity and inspirational levels of hope. Celebration Rock is just that: the sound of a band embracing joy and heartbreak, love and anger as the symptoms of a healthy soul. "If I had all of the answers and you had the body that you wanted", King sings, "would we love with a legendary fire?"
This is a more polished effort than Post-Nothing. Lyrics, as King has pointed out, are no longer secondary to the music, and that confidence is reflected in the delivery, which bursts with conviction. Post-Nothing's chaotic, at times slightly thin production has been superseded by a clarity and force fit to fill stadiums. From the opening hook of 'The Nights of Wine and Roses', through 'Adrenaline Nightshift's infectious chorus ("there's no high like this..."), to King and drummer David Prowse's "oh-oh-oh"'s on recent single 'The House That Heaven Built' ("tell 'em all they'll love in my shadow"), there is a pop sensibility that makes the album's emotional thrust irresistible.
That's not to say the band is too readily embracing studio perfectionism. A cover of The Gun Club's proto-Pixies classic 'For The Love Of Ivy' is appropriately unhinged and 'Evil's Sway' sees King almost spitting his lyrics over a wash of distortion and rapid fire percussive blasts. Only the rueful pining of 2010 single 'Younger Us' feels slightly out of place; originally destined for Post-Nothing, that the track feels relatively callow here is perhaps unsurprising.
Maybe that track is included for its contribution to the album's structure. The eight-track, 35 minute template that Japandroids have followed on both Celebration Rock and Post-Nothing suits them, allowing an outlet for the duo's passion while negating the need to worry too much about drastic fluctuations in pace or dynamics. That may sound like a backhanded compliment, but it's not; the album's strength lies in its vitality, varying the intensity would feel unnatural - a distraction to the compelling force that permeates throughout. When the pace does slow down, on closer 'Continuous Thunder', the effect is to galvanise the emotional message that has been forged amid the fire of the album's fiercer moments. "Heart's terrain is never a prairie" King sings, his statement one of defiance rather than despair. As the song fades out, the crackle of fireworks brings the album to a euphoric close. In reality, the adventures of youth rarely play out so neatly, but that's not the point - Post-Nothing was Japandroids' soundtrack to a chaotic summer. Celebration Rock encapsulates the kind of affirmative, collective experiences that define an entire adolescence.