Celebration Rock – Japandroids (review)

As an album title, Celebration Rock pretty much nails it. Every part of rock’s rich history is thrown into the mix and played at the same time and at ear-splitting volume. This is not a good thing, by the way. It’s an aural assault which is supposed to portray abandon and youthful energy but ends up sounding like it’s mixed by the producer of Spinal Tap who still believes that everything should be turned up to 11.

When presented with Japandroids, this writer was informed that they were a garage band. If the promo material meant that they sound like they record their material in a garage, then it was spot on. There’s little depth to the sound and the mix is seriously muddled throughout. This description cannot seriously be based on any kind of musical connection to the likes of MC5 or The Sonics. Where are the melodies?  Even the most raucous garage bands had a song behind the racket.

Celebration Rock lacks any of the innovation and, dare I say it, tunes of the bands which this Canadian duo are supposed to revere. They sound less like the pioneering noise rock acts of the 60s and 70s and more like caricatures of the early to mid-90s U.S. cartoon punk scene. Bands like Green Day and Blink-182 may have pretended to be punk but they were in fact creating their own genre, and went on to dominate that, becoming huge in the process. But while Green Day had the songs and Blink-182 had the humor and irony, Japandroids have neither, resorting to the formula of thrashing guitars and hell-for-leather drums with such repetition that Celebration Rock soon becomes a grinding chore to listen to.

It seems that when they do stumble across a nice riff – and they do from time to time – even if it’s just a rip-off of early U2, Jimmy Page or some chest-thumping Springsteen – they play it to death. To regurgitate these guitar parts ad nauseum may secure Japandroids their place as the go-to band for keg party soundtracks but unless they add a bit of depth to their sound, it’s going to get old very quickly. Saying that though, there will always be teenagers with the keys to Dad’s liquor cabinet and so if Japandroids don’t progress, the endlessly reliable combination of youthful hormones and illicit alcohol consumption will at least guarantee them an audience.

Commendations

“For the Love of Ivy” suffers from all the aspects which have drawn my criticism but it’s so damn infectious that it doesn’t matter that I have no idea what’s going on lyrically or that it sounds like it’s recorded in a submarine. “Continuous Thunder,” perhaps the only track which could be described as a proper song, provides the hope that Japandroids can do more than drop their heads and rock out. It also suggests they won’t necessarily have to spend their career playing to aging jocks who continually shout for the one about “drinking and smoking.”

Next Steps

Japandroids are proficient at what they do but this album fails to inspire. They need to clean up their production and write and play actual songs without losing any of their intensity and energy. If they want to revive a decade, I’d suggest looking a bit further back than the 90s for inspiration. Many people have a clear idea of what was good back then. It’s easier to identify a poor substitute when the memory of better bands is still fresh.

First published on: Puluche.com

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