I have a completely-filled 120 GB iPod classic, the record crate of the digital age, containing my entire music library. I’m listening to each release in alphabetical order by record title – kind of a virtual archaeological dig. These are my findings.
…Unless I decide to skip around the alphabet. In fact, I believe I’ll skip around for all of March…
Ah, youthful exuberance. I wish I still had it. But no, all big dreams of scissor-kicking and windmilling around a stage with a rock band are long in the past. How far gone am I? I’m lobbing unflattering portraits at my college heroes, Modest Mouse, for crying out loud. The tagline for that review was “Grumpy Grandpa shakes cane at record.” It was true, and I briefly toyed with changing the name of my column to “Grave-Digging.” But I’d had it with Isaac Brock’s antics. The music was still good, but I got annoyed with him all too easily. I have little patience for live banter and formless jamming. I don’t go to shows anymore. I’m huddled in my cave with my Internet access. I’ve forgotten what sunshine feels like.
This is my point: Japandroids are making me feel young again, and therefore insecure and jealous as I move toward, urgh, middle age. (And before you shrug me off as a total tool, you should know I’m really only in my early 30s. And my record collection is better than yours.) This boisterous Vancouver duo of guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse is really too energetic for its own good – ah, that’s Grandpa talking again. Screw it – I’m feeling it, and I have to say that the Japandroids’ full-length debut Post-Nothing has got me imagining all kinds of scenarios where I’m getting the band back together, up on stage, fist raised at the precipice of a down-stroked stadium anthem, eyes rolled back as waves of sound wash over me. Prowse and King are doing that to me, and I love them for it. And that they’re doing it simply with guitar and drums makes the result even more impressive. I know, I know, before you call me out on that, I’m aware that “the duo” is a viable rock lineup, but it still – the ruckus they generate, the whirlwinds they whip up are so thick and formed that two dudes on a stage seems slight to me. That’s just me observing from all the way back here.
God help the kids in the front row. Those stacks at the front of the stage are vibrating hard enough to cause tectonic movement. That is, Japandroids are loud. King certainly has neither foot anywhere near his distortion pedal, ’cause that thing’s always on. It’s funny, too, with the comparisons Japandroids gets to No Age (and they’re apt) that the only descriptors I can think of to try to stick to their sound are made-up dummy terms like “post shoegaze” and “post noise rock” – but of course their album title offers a stern reminder that they are, in fact, Post-Nothing, even though we all know there should be no hyphen when the compound word follows the verb. It works if you’re saying that Japandroids is a post-nothing band, but that’s an adjective. “Japandroids are post nothing” loses the hyphen. Matt, are you reading?
Back on track. Young adventure! That’s where we’re going with Post-Nothing, and that’s where the energy and spirit comes from. We are introduced right away to a huge frenzied anthem in the Thin Lizzy-title-aping “The Boys Are Leaving Town,” which has only two lines repeated throughout – the title itself and “Will we find our way back home?”, as well as some wordless vocalizations. It’s all yelped to the sky, fists again raised heavenward, tingling with anticipation, the unknown road ahead. Just a couple of dudes (especially evidenced by the cover) ready to travel the world and rock out. And that’s pretty much it. Review over … OK, more review. What gives everything such a dynamic vitality is the dual sing/shout delivery of Prowse and King, both recorded fuzzily enough to sound as if their mouths are full of microphone foam. And the technique is used on every track, along with the guitar settings and virtuosic drumming. Yet each song finds its identity, its power.
All this for a bunch of tunes about drinking and girls – and that’s all right, ’cause that’s rock and roll. “Young Hearts Spark Fire” (how’s that for the title of a youth anthem?) ends with the defiant “I don’t wanna worry about dying / I just wanna worry about the sunshine girls.” On “Wet Hair” the boys want to “go to France so [they] can French kiss some French girls” – pretty simple desire, no? Even simpler – or at least on the same plain – is “Sovereignty”: “It’s raining in Vancouver, but I don’t give a fuck, ’cause I’m alone with you tonight.” I guess it can’t all be rosy though – the album ends on the more melancholy “I Quit Girls,” appropriately channeling fellow youth spokespeople Smashing Pumpkins’ “Mayonnaise” – maybe they are actually on their way back home at this point. Bleary eyed, breathless, hung over, peering out the window of the bus or plane. World conquered. Man, that must be a good feeling – good for Japandroids. No grumpiness emanates from me in their direction, just a peaceful vibe. We’re OK with each other.
RIYL: No Age, Glifted, Dig (haha)