Canada’s favourite – and just about only – punk-rock duo is back with their new release, ‘Near To The Wild Heart of Life’. Japandroids are something of a throwback; it’s like The Cure meets Cheap Trick with a sprinkling of ‘yeah, yeahs’s!’ and curse words. They sing mostly about girls and alcohol, but do so with such blind optimism and energy that it doesn’t matter how cliché’ the content is. This is their authentic truth – their way of looking at life.
The title track is an anthem to say the least, exclaiming ‘She kissed me like a chorus/Said give em hell for us!’. For a moment I’m transported to a place that I’ve never been, in an era that I haven’t lived through; it’s a school disco in the 80’s, Japanroids are playing on stage, and I’m screaming along to the lyrics in anger because the captain of the football team has just kissed Patty – and I fucking love Patty.
‘North East West Coast’ is a catchy, rapturous love letter to Canada that celebrates a throwaway attitude towards the touring lifestyle, enthusing ‘It ain’t shit, it’s just kicks/and like the world I’m going on and on.’ It’s this kind of carefree attitude that gained Japandroids such a loyal fan-base, and there is a charming authenticity to the manner in which these songs are delivered.
The album slows down a bit with the third track, ‘True Love and a Life of Free Will’, which offers a more introspective outlook that acts as a critique to their own brashness. ‘Cigarettes, sorcery and biblical sins/Hang over us hedons, harlots and anti-heroins’ powerfully expresses a shift to a more self-deprecating narrative that disarms the listener, indicating a more self-aware, mature outlook that can only come with self-reflection. ‘I’m Sorry (For Not Finding You Sooner)’ is a simple but effective track. Melancholic, washy lyrics on loop reiterate a devotion to love that was always going to come with such a chase.
‘Arc of Bar’ is a monster of a track at 7.25 minutes. Synths, yelps and doomy, chromatic tongue twisting lyrics (“Well at least those damned mosquitos/That fall flounder to the flood/Get a thimble full of whiskey/with their paltry pint of blood, my blood/YEAAH YEEEAAAH!) make this track a standout, if not a classic. It is perhaps Japandroids most experimental, deviant track to date, but it works well because their essence still rides the wave of every synth and syllable.
‘Midnight to Morning’ and ‘No Known Drink or Drug’ both follow an unfamiliar theme to Japandroids fans, in that they focus on cherishing, not chasing love. ‘No drink or no known drug/Could ever hold a candle to your love’ is a lyric that demonstrates a cathartic shift from the brazen to besotted, and the sobering affection that prevails with the realisation of love. ‘Midnight to Morning’ evokes melodic euphoria, repeating ‘Bring me back home to you’ like a love song that they don’t want to end.
‘In a Body Like a Grave’ doesn’t serve as perfect closure for an otherwise hard to fault piece of work. Line’s such as ‘Time is money and money swears’, ‘Break the bank like you’re breaking a building’ and ‘School will deepen doubt’ serve as mantra’s to something that is far too idiomatic in discourse, leaving the listener perplexed at exactly what it is the artist is trying to express here. It feels like they had an idea, but just went a little too far with it.
One of the great things about Japandroids is that they never seem to take themselves too seriously. That’s not to say that this album is devoid of introspective lyrics and emotion, but that they do it in their own way, which makes for an incredibly authentic feel to whatever they put their name on. Although a little different to the status quo that made them so likeable in the first place, the duo should be commended for their exploration both musically and personally. The fact that they managed to pull it off bodes well for Japandroids and their legion of fans.