In many ways, Japandroids are the epitome of current carefree punk rock. They are no-nonsense fast guitars, banging drums and loud life-affirming vocals. Celebration Rock is the perfect title for their newest album as it represents what they do best: celebrate rock. If they were to make up a genre it would be called “happiness punk.” Their music is simplistic and idealistic, loud and rambunctious. It is the cry of an infectious spirit refusing to grow up. They bring out the old school punk rock kid in all of us.
Japandroids is the duo of Brian King on guitar and David Prowse on drums. They share vocal duties which are mostly either energetic yelling or contagious chanting. In 2008 they were on the verge of calling it quits, so much so that they played their last shows as a band. Their self released album Post-Nothing came out after these shows and changed everything. Hipster site Pitchfork picked up the album, gave it their acclaimed Best New Music label and before anyone knew what was happening, Japandroids were reaching wider audiences than they ever had. Their raw sound and energetic performances fueled their fire and Post-Nothing became one of the most acclaimed albums of the year.
But where does a simple punk band go from there? Japandroids encompassed unrefined youthful fun and whatever step they took toward a sophomore album ran the risk of selling out or getting stale. Approaching the dilemma by not changing anything, they went back into the studio with Jesse Gander -the same engineer who produced Post-Nothing– and kept the sound raw and energetic. Celebration Rock has eight songs and runs 35 minutes, the same as Post-Nothing. The album covers even look identical, both on a black and white cut-out frame with a picture of the band members looking solemnly at the camera. In this modern age bands are constantly pressured to grow and change, but Japandroids have the opposite mindset: why change anything if it is working?
The only thing that has changed about Japandroids is that they’re better at what they’re doing. The songs are more focused, the drums and guitars are louder and they carry a bigger sense of self-actualization. They are writing songs for those proud to be young or for those who remember what it was like to be young. Both King and Prowse are 29, not exactly kids anymore, but they use Japandroids as an outlet to the world of the young and allow their audience to do the same. Sixth track “Younger Us” is a tune of remember whens, “remember saying things like ‘we’ll sleep when we’re dead’/and thinking this feeling was never gonna end,” providing a line all of us can relate to. What is rock and roll but a chance to stay young as long as possible?
The album opens with the exploding sounds of fireworks in the distance. King cuts in on a ripping power-chord and they start singing, “Long lit up tonight/and still drinking/don’t we have anything to live for?/well of course we do/but until it comes true/we’re drinking.” I am personally brought back to a summer after high school had let out. I’m with my friends, there is a bonfire, everyone is drinking and smoking and even though it is completely cliché it seems like those times are never going to end. Of course they do. People grow up and we all move on but Japandroids keeps us there just for a minute longer. This is the life-affirming punk rock that anyone can appreciate. If you are currently living in those “Nights of Wine and Roses” or are reminiscing about them, it is a joy being there. As a listener you want to wallop and repeat the “WHAOOOS” and shouts on “Fire’s Highway.” You want to be at their shows jumping around in the mosh pit losing yourself to the music.
What is so great about Japandroids is that they don’t need to grow up or change to prove anything. They are defying the odds by just existing. It is almost unfair asking about their future because they act like there is no future. They aren’t changing but refining their craft. Lead single “The House That Heaven Built” is probably their loudest song. The drums pound nonstop and the guitar’s distortion is overwhelming as the band screams “And if they try to slow you down/tell ’em all to go to hell.” Japandroids don’t care about the future or expectations or growing up. All they care about is hitting it hard and with passion and they will keep living in this prolonged youth zone as long as they can.