After giving up on their musical adventure before their first album, Post-Nothing (2009), was even made available to the public, Canadian duo Japandroids have returned with their second release from Polyvinyl Records, Celebration Rock. The one thing that stands out most in the work of the Japandroids is the multi-layering of vocal harmonies and of the duo’s two instruments. Anyone not hip to the fact that there are only two of them may be led to believe Japandroids is a full ensemble.
Celebration Rock really is just that, an eight-track celebration of independent and DIY rock, opening and closing with the sound of fireworks which makes for an almost seamless transition from end to beginning when the album is played on repeat. There is no point throughout the course of the album where the energy truly wanes.
This also means, however, that there are few real moments of decrescendo throughout Celebration Rock, little inflection in the dialog of the album, making “Continuous Thunder” (ironically, the album’s least up-tempo track) more than just a song title. It would not be inconceivable for some listeners to find this exhausting. I did. While I enjoyed the album, the repetitive nature of listening to review grew tiring.
“The Nights of Wine and Roses” grabs listeners’ attention as it gradually blends the sound of a particularly active fireworks display with snare drum, then a long draw on Brian King’s guitar. The duo’s combined voices explode into the first lyrics of the album, “Long lit up tonight and still drinking,” and nothing gives from that point on.
A cover of the Gun Club’s “For the Love of Ivy” offers a lo-fi chaos reminiscent of 1970s live rock albums. The track comes complete with a screaming guitar and cymbal crashes made to sound like crowd noise and arena-esque echoes on the vocal line. A moderate littering of feedback helps drive home the effect.
“For the Love of Ivy” is not the only cover version to be associated with the album. The album’s first single, “The House that Heaven Built” was released May 15, 2012. The 7” single included a cover of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ “Jack the Ripper,” in which Japandroids kept the haunting darkness of the original but Brian King’s vocals are a striking contrast to Cave’s.
“Continuous Thunder” is the least “thunderous” track on Celebration Rock and easily this writer’s pick for album highlight. The track more than hints at a distinct Guided by Voices influence on Japandroids’ sound. King even sounds at some points, especially as the track opens, to be emulating Robert Pollard’s vocal tones, while keeping the song his own.
Celebration Rock, the second studio release from Vancouver’s Japandroids, is available from Polyvinyl Record Co. in CD, mp3 and vinyl formats where available.