The new Japandroids album is loud. That is the first, and most inescapable, fact about the album. With drums insistently pushing the pace and thrusting every other part of the sound louder and louder, if Celebration Rock fails, it’s certainly not for lack of energy. The next obvious fact is that it’s clear these guys have done their homework on guitar layering and delays, and are not afraid to point that out in every song. It works, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Finally, just to compete with the massive sonic landscape and propulsive drumming, singer Brian King is yelling in every song, as if turning up the mic was not the answer he was looking for.
This all adds up to a cathartic rush of sounds and adrenaline. Celebration Rock is an ode to the type of youth we all hope to have, but few ever do. It’s an ongoing rush. It’s driving music. It’s live music. It’s been done before. The difference here is that the songs are more about holding onto the liveliness of youth as it fades away, rather than being in the thick of it. These songs, particularly “The Nights of Wine and Roses” and “The House that Heaven Built”, lay this vibe on thick and to perfection. The music evokes a desperate grasp to maintain youth. While there is a sense of melancholia throughout, there is also inspiration in the drive towards this goal, even if success is only fleeting.
All of this may sound heavy-handed, but the album is, as all truly great albums are, more than the sum of its parts. Although some may have an issue with the lack of dynamics in the song (translation: every song is loud and rocking; no ballads here), the Japandroids were very judicious in their editing, keeping the album at just about 35 minutes with no filler. This keeps the thrill and energy consistent for the listener throughout, without bogging down.
Although not exactly an innovative or classic album, for what Celebration Rock is going for, it succeeds unquestionably. The only desire I have now is to hear this music live, where it was clearly meant to be all along.
Grade: A –