Japandroids – Celebration Rock

written by: May 29, 2012
Japandroids - Celebration Rock album cover Release Date: June 5th, 2012

★★★★☆

More albums need to start with fireworks. More albums need to be fun, summery and explosive. Luckily, Japandroids are here to help with this problem with their newest release: Celebration Rock. It’s a wild ride.

Formed in 2006, Japandroids are a two person outfit from Vancouver, but don’t let their status as a ‘duo’ to mean ‘minimalist’ or ‘understated’: their music is violent, emotional, and contains enough noise for a full five piece. And it is great: their first album, Post-Nothing, is an 8 song collection of frantic, explosive, straight-up fun rock and roll that most everyone can enjoy.

Now, 3 years after their concussive debut, Japandroids have dropped their second album, Celebration Rock, and while it doesn’t change the duo’s sound drastically, it’s a fantastic way to start the summer season with a bang.

Celebration Rock is an apt a title for this record as you’ll ever find: bookended by samples of fireworks and partying, the album is an instant festival, fun and frantic and messy as that sounds. Instrumentation is simple, with crashing drums, heavily distorted and pounding guitar riffs, and vocals that are more “gruffly screamed in harmony” than really ever sung. It’s a pretty standard lo-fi rock sound, but it’s done really well, with memorable hooks, and enough dynamic changes the keep songs interesting throughout the 35 minute record.

Celebration Rock is initially both thematically and lyrically simple: a cursory listen through will leave the impression that the album is about partying and partying hard, and while that’s true, there’s more going on at these parties than you might believe: despite the catchy hooks and frantic vocal growls, Celebration Rock contains a fair amount of longing and heartbreak. While none of the songs are exactly Shakespearean (which is good, they shouldn’t be), they’re a lot deeper than one might readily assume, touching on topics of existential meltdown, escape and forgotten desire. It’s all buried pretty deep beneath the blazing guitars and drums, but it is there and it’s surprisingly touching and appropriate.

For most, Celebration Rock just needs to be an upbeat, fun party album, and while it is all of those things, it’s nice to know that there is some depth here for those looking for it. After all, it isn’t a really good party without a few tears.

The only fair complaint to be levied against Celebration Rock is that it doesn’t every get quite as high as their previous record: the fantastic album opener “The Nights of Wine and Roses” and the album’s first single “The House that Heaven Built” are both great songs, but they aren’t quite as memorable as some of the more emotionally charged songs on Post-Nothing. To make up for this though, Celebration Rock is perhaps the better balanced record: a more consistent sound and higher overall quality of the songs within make Celebration Rock an equally fulfilling experience.

Though all the songs on the record hold up under pressure, the melodramatic burn “Evil’s Sway” nostalgic closer “Continuous Thunder,” and especially the aforementioned “The Nights of Wine and Roses” are all fantastic tracks, and are worth a listen if you are unsure about grabbing the whole record.

Celebration Rock came out at just the right time. Where Post-Nothing was heavier, darker, and perhaps a more winter-y album, Celebration Rock is a fantastic summer one: The perfect party mix of bittersweet and catchy, immediate and nostalgic, rough and clean, it’s a soundtrack to a great time, and a great listen for those in the mood for something fun.

Japandroids – Celebration Rock tracklist:

  1. “The Nights of Wins and Roses”
  2. “Fire’s Highway”
  3. “Evil’s Sway”
  4. “For the Love of Ivy”
  5. “Adrenaline Nightshift”
  6. “Younger Us”
  7. “The House That Heaven Built”
  8. “Continuous Thunder”