I have been trying to see Japandroids for three years now, yet I have been met with three years of failure. With Celebration Rock, my quest to see them has become of up-most importance and I will stop at nothing to see them live. Still, through many listenings and sing-a-longs, I have a weird sensation that my pilgrimage has been ever so slightly and strangely fulfilled.
This makes sense: Japandroids Brian King (guitarist/vocals) and David Prowse (drums/vocals) wanted to emulate their concert experience on this record. Nearly every song has an wordless hook that instantly becomes familiar after the first listen, allowing for you to shout to your hearts content and not feel ridiculous. And that’s the magic of this music: it invites you join the party because King and Prowse are offering themselves to the table with abandon. The guitars bristle, crackle, shimmer with their energy, while the lyrics are pure heart-on-your-sleeve romanticism (on opener “The Nights of Wine and Roses” King sings “We all wanna know what nobody knows, what the nights of wine and roses hold, for the wine and roses of our souls.”) Every song sounds like a SOS to PLEASE, PLEASE come celebrate with them.
The first three songs, “The Nights of Wine and Roses,” “Fire’s Highway,” and “Evil’s Sway” contain Japandroid’s signature honoring of youthful, night-life adventures and are sure to soundtrack summer happenings past the witching hour. Yet, we have heard this on their debut, Post-Nothing, so what makes this album any different? The details, my friends. The slight, high pitched overdub at the end of “Wine and Roses” where it sounds like the song is risking combustion, the duality of the dark, adulterous lyrical content of “Evil’s Sway” with its jubilant delivery, or my personal favorite, the lone vocal hook after the chorus on “Fire’s Highway.”
I could write an entire review on how I feel about this “Fire’s Highway” hook, and a paragraph must suffice. The song demands the listener to “turn some restless nights into restless years.” And Japandroids lead the way, inviting you to sing. After the first chorus, a lone voice calls out. We have all had that moment in a song where we come in too early, are singing along, alone and fully exposed in our mistake. Japandroids must have read our minds; they incorporated the lone voice into the song. The voice is later joined by friends to create a powerful platoon of voices, calling into the night.
"Adrenaline Nightshift," is pretty standard Japandroids, teen angst and challenge abound, but the chorus is probably the biggest earworm on the album ("there’s no high like this, adrenaline nightshift" is still going in my head), "Younger Us" is a wonderful pop song released last year with such vivid imagery as "gimme that naked new skin rush" that perfectly captures a young sexual awakening better than any Twilight film. (I’ve only seen the films, so I feel silly using a book reference.)
Then arrives the conclusion of the album “Continuous Thunder.” As the token “slow song,” it’s the biggest indicator that Japandroids have grown as songwriters. On Post-Nothing the slow song, and closer, “I Quit Girls” was novelty at best and skippable at worst. Not so here. The song opens with shimmers, and I know I promised not to compare here but I swear it sounds like our answer to “Baba O’Riley.” The song is a last attempt plea to continue a relationship (“if i had all of the answers and you had the body you wanted would we love with a legendary fire?”), throwing everything on the line as the album closes. The song builds and builds and then ends with fireworks. Perfect, to be honest.
Celebration Rock is titled so because of the duos triumph over the years; their debut was supposed to be their final recording because of frustrations of going nowhere, but thankfully was heard and adored. With this album, we are invited to celebrate with a band that has worked harder than most and is still generous enough to share their spoils.