Review Summary: More loud, fun guitar music. Nothing novel.
There isn’t a collective of rockers, aside from a few on the AARP mailing list, that have quite as much fun of Japandroids. Their hyped-out elephant-stomp guitar anthems have an uncanny ability to turn the multiplicity of frowns around the world upside down. It makes it a little hard to hate on them, but hate I must, if only a little.
2009’s “Post-Nothing” was chock-full of fast and heavy party roarers about being young and having a good time. It was wildly successful. This year’s “Celebration Rock” sees them reveling in triumph. The clicky-clacky fireworks that start and end the album serve to make this quasi-concept strikingly clear, as if the title wasn’t enough. Unfortunately, it seems they got a bit too celebratory and ended up making the same record all over again, from the cover art to the joyfully chanted “oh oh”’s.
The faults that plagued their first effort remain, if in more controlled quantities. They still have trouble letting go of a hook, pushing tracks on sometimes several minutes longer than is necessary. Judging by the short tracklisting and the long intermediary period between albums, this could be written off to a bout of writers block. Unfortunate but understandable. There’s also that pesky propensity to keep things going at a maddeningly steady pace. I’m sure it works live, and they probably throw a kick-ass show, but it just gets a little old, particularly when taken for a half-an-hour while sitting on a bed. Only on the Gun Club cover “For the Love of Ivy” (cool choice) do they show even the slightest bit of venom, enough to numb my tongue but not to knock me out.
Not a lot has changed thematically either. Most of the songs center around the idea of drinking to forget about fading youth and impending mortality. For me, this idea worked rather effectively on “Young Hearts Spark Fire” from “Post-Nothing”. They should have just left it there. Alas, it seems their greatest fault is their inability to cut things off at the right time. Despite the consistently hyperactive energy of the beats, the songs end up feeling slow, like good jokes muffled by a comedian’s refusal to take the express route to the punchline.
Still, they’ve sharpened their edge when it comes to what they do best. Nothing so far this year has become so entrenched in my head as “The Nights of Wine and Roses”, and the second place trophy probably goes to “The House That Heaven Built,” which could be the feel-good number of the year. They’re also tight musicians, particularly drummer David Prowse, who tears it up. Then again, they’ve always been tight. Would have been more exciting if they trashed it up a bit.