Japandroids took the positive-partying mentality of Andrew W.K. and filtered it through pop punk, garage rock, and noise pop to create the life-affirming ebullience that is Celebration Rock. Surprisingly sleek, considering its influences from Guns ‘n’ Roses1 and Hüsker Dü, Celebration Rock is eight tracks of high-energy, danceable indie rock. The album opens and closes with the sounds of fireworks that evoke adolescent awe and the only-slightly-self-aware sense of abandon that comes with adventures. Japandroids forsook double-tracking and vocal dubbing this time around, giving the album a live feel reminiscent of the best house parties back in your hometown, where the memories have just a touch of gloss from nostalgia.
Speaking of which, memories are the key to Celebration Rock – memories, and using them to celebrate one’s life and future rather than vainly wish for glory days. “Fire’s Highway” finds Brian King wistfully remarking on the experience of simultaneous sadness and ecstasy of “one night to have and to hold.” “Evil’s Sway” describes sexual tension and the confusion of desire with “you burn away your dreams inside a journal / and leave those primal words unsaid / I’ll run to find you in this moment / and expose a passionate woman for what she is.” “Younger Us” cleverly avoids a hackneyed fetishization of youth culture by focusing on living through the memories that made a relationship beautiful rather than try to recapture glory days, even as one is perfectly aware that those days have ended, and that’s okay.2 “The House that Heaven Built” implores a positive, happy outlook on the horrifying concept that is the future “when they love you – and they will.” Celebration Rock is surprisingly somber; sure, all the songs are alternating open/power chords, but they’re not dumb – they’re definitely not insincere in their demand for self-actualization. Those 228-show tours don’t play themselves, and Japandroids play hard.
This album brings back one of my most poignant memories of living in Alaska: skiing the trails at sunrise in January, missing my friends after starting a new job and wondering if things will turn out okay. It’s a good metaphor for Celebration Rock, which revels in these crazy things called “emotions” and “feelings” that somehow make the world a sadder but ultimately more beautiful place.
1. The Nights of Wine and Roses – (4:01) – ★★★☆☆
2. Fire’s Highway – (4:43) – ★★★★★
3. Evil’s Sway – (4:26) – ★★★★★
4. For the Love of Ivy [The Gun Club cover] – (4:12) – ★★★★☆
5. Adrenaline Nightshift – (4:26) – ★★★★★
6. Younger Us – (3:32) – ★★★★★
7. The House that Heaven Built – (4:48) – ★★★★☆
8. Continuous Thunder – (4:58) – ★★★☆☆
1Possibly hinted at in the title of the first track, “The Nights of Wine and Roses.”
2“Remember that night you were already in bed / said fuck it, got up to drink with me instead” is one of my favorite song lyrics in indie rock.