What we know as Japandroids almost withered away into nothing. Fed up with the fruitless efforts of its tireless DIY promotion, guitarist Brian King was attempting to assemble a new band by the end of 2008. Then there was an unexpected resuscitation — the aptly titled Post Nothing. The scions of indie hype had cajoled them out of early retirement into a temporary holding pattern that eventually expanded into a two-year 200+ show odyssey. Once the ceaseless barnstorming ended, they were right back where they almost ended — without any idea of what their immediate future holds. But living for now, like there’s no tomorrow, is their Occam’s razor. Shred through all the raw power and abandon of Celebration Rock and you’ll taste the rarified nectar of the rock gods — stage sweat and bloody knuckles.
Unlike many of their alternative brethren, this album’s name speaks for itself. Instead of making the typical pitfall of hiring a renowned producer to “refine” their sophomore record, they brought original engineer Jesse Gander who coaxed them to “make this one a little more cruising down the highway, and a little less doing crystal meth on New Year’s.” We’ll give them that live at the dive sensation, just with a little more foreplay. The expert slow rising gait of “Continuous Thunder” is shocking considering it’s two dudes recording only one guitar, one drum kit and two respective vocalizers. No overdubs or double tracking, in the words of Jack White that’s “cheating.” King channels a lower register Colin Meloy taming a ten thousand decibel Titus Andronicus axe to grind. His power chords resonate with higher than expected fidelity as he recalls: “You took my hand/From the cold glistened rain/Dressed with the knives/Arm in arm with me/Singing out loud yeah yeah yeah/Like continuous thunder.” In a broken 4/4 snare beat the proverbial thunder rolls on drilling to devilish depths until the guitar careens out of control; melding into curiously sullen fireworks.
They even have just enough notoriety to cover the trail blazers of the “punk-a-billy” aesthetic — L.A.’s infamous The Gun Club. “For the Love of Ivy” has been covered by some notable acts in the past, including this live rendition courtesy of The White Stripes. Japandroids’ version is a lot more Dead Kennedys than Meat Puppets. It’s essentially a call-and-response blues song with punk edge. And considerably less Americana roots.
The aforementioned pyrotechnics serve as interlude for a muffled kick drum and classic arena guitar on drinking anthem “The Nights of Wine and Roses.” Though these lyrics resemble the repetitive three-verses-for-a-six-minute-song design of Post Nothing, this reckless Saturday night romper requires very little in the way of deep contemplation.
Subsequent tracks “Fire’s Highway” and “Evil’s Sway” fall somewhere in between a raging Paul Westerberg and Be Your Own Pet. The former stands a bit taller than the latter thanks to some well timed breakdowns and tempo troughs that barely keep their head above water until we hear the familiar “woo-oooh” cries for gleeful mayhem.
“Adrenaline Nightshift”, aside from its insanely cool name, displays lightyears worth of progression in Japandroids’ rather limited discography up until now. King rules all facets of his fret board, screaming from ear piercing triads to nimbly fingered down chord progressions right back to the foot pedals for even more texture than one could possibly expect. Prowse doesn’t just keep up with him. He’ll introduce a minor deviation in the cadence that materializes into an entirely nascent melody, still finding a way to navigate back to a motif that either subtly or apparently presents itself throughout the entirety of this opus.
It wasn’t easy for our two boys in question to force themselves to become songwriting men. They still don’t consider themselves masters of their craft. But who really is? Why strive for something you can’t attain or isn’t even really you? As long as you remain true to who you are and work your ass off, the accolades will eventually follow. Just ask another drums-and-guitar duo — The Black Keys. They’d probably say something like: “Stay on the road until they really start paying you to hole up in the studio.” They take it one step further. “We toured for so long we didn’t want it to end. We wanted to tour for so long that we had to make a new record just to keep touring,” King told Stereogum recently. Looks like that problem’s been solved for the foreseeable future — the one they still never really think about.