Album Review: Japandroids – Near to the Wild Heart of Life



4.5 OUT OF 5 NUTS!

In the midst of all this political chaos facing our country, maybe it’s fitting that we looked abroad for the first great rock record of 2017. Don’t get me wrong. The U.S. certainly doesn’t have the market cornered on exuberant, anthemic rock songs, but the heartland epics of Japandroids don’t necessarily scream “Vancouver, B.C.” It just goes to show you that any kind of music can theoretically come from any geographic location.

It should be noted that the two gentlemen in Japandroids (Brian King and David Prowse) have spent a large part of the time between album releases touring incessantly, and it sure seems as though a lot of these personal tales from the road are based on true experiences. They’ve covered a lot of ground as a touring band, and it shows here. Take the slippery, hazy “Arc of Bar,” which perfectly calls to mind an increasingly out-of-hand evening in a New Orleans dive.

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“No Known Drink or Drug” finds the idea of “home” in a foreign place. These songs, instantly catchy (but in a meaty, substantial way) feel like the shout-along anthems that have existed for thirty years but are just now being recorded. These aren’t necessarily songs of celebration or protest (though the group’s previous album was called Celebration Rock). Near to The Wild Heart of Life  instead delivers exactly “what it says on the tin,” so to speak. These are tales from on tour, slices of life from the untamed heart of humanity. Japandroids draw from fertile wells both in the realms of classic rock and punk to deliver their message. It’s not hard to hear the influence of working class warriors like Bruce Spingsteen in these lyrics from “In A Body Like A Grave”:

Christ will call you out
School will deepen debt
Work will sap the soul
Hometown haunts what’s left.

 

With these deeply evocative portraits of wild life around the world, Japandroids have returned after four years of inactivity, and conclusively proven that they’re still top of the heap.

This might be the best rock and roll band in the world at this exact moment in time. Go see them live. I can’t, because the 2/15 show at the Vic is sold out.

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