Rousing. Anthemic. Life-affirming. Enough ink has been spilled (or, I guess in my case, keyboard-strokes) on these words that they hardly mean anything anymore when it comes to describing bands. Oftentimes the gulf between what I read about bands that I love, and the visceral experience I have of listening to bands that I love, is so wide that I seriously doubt the the very capacity of the written word. Which is why I hesitate to try to discuss my love of Japandroids. The feeling (and goosebumps) I get when I listen to them is the same that I get from all of my favorite bands, the vague sense that nascent thoughts I have in my head are being articulated in a way that I’m unable to do myself. It also helps that the dudes in Japandroids are loud, fast, and appear to be genuine, valuing sincerity in comparison to the flippant, cynical, and/or ironic nature that I find in a lot of young indie bands today.
The last time I saw Japandroids, it was 2008 in the HUB on U.W.’s campus. They played during a Rainy Dawg Radio local music showcase, and there were probably only 7 or 8 people milling around when the Vancouver duo took the stage. By the time they ripped into their first song, I was no longer sitting down in a corner, but standing upfront wondering just what the hell I was hearing. That set is mostly a screeching blur now, but I remember buying two EPs they had for sale afterwards, and playing them to death for months on end. By the tail-end of the 2009, their album Post-Nothing had come out and the songs on there hit me harder than anything else I’d heard from the band before. For a 20 year-old who felt totally woebegone most of the time and that I wasn’t truly living up to my reckless potential, songs about leaving home, young hearts sparking fire, and french-kissing French girls (all at a breakneck pace) felt tailor-made just for me.
- the only photo I took all night before putting my damn phone away
That’s part of the reason why I was bummed that they were playing a 21 and over show last night at Neumo’s. If Japandroids’ music is for anyone in particular, it should be for the kids who’ll bum rush the front, and not ‘too cool for school’ arms-crossed adults hanging in the back. Nonetheless they still put on an electrifying show with the most respectful mosh pit I’ve ever seen and been a part of (guys apologizing for hitting each other in the head, water bottles being passed around, etc.) Guitarist Brian King mentioned a few times that this was the biggest crowd they’ve ever had for a Seattle show, and was painstakingly self-deprecating during song introductions; before playing “The Nights of Wine and Roses” King said, “This is the hardest song we’ve ever written,” and later practically apologized for wanting to play the one slow-burner of the night, “Continuous Thunder.” They played the entire new album, Celebration Rock (this was the first show they’ve performed since the album was officially released) along with a few songs from Post-Nothing, and now more than ever do I pick up on the Hüsker Dü guitar comparisons.
The differences between the two albums are pretty slight; they’re still drinking, smoking, and staying up all night, but whereas I found the lyrics of Post-Nothing to be about running away in order to find yourself, Celebration Rock seems to be more about coming back with an increased vigor. On songs like “Fire’s Highway” and “Evil’s Sway,” King has seen the outside world, “a northern soul in southern lands” while “hitchhiking from hell and back" but the album's strongest moments are when he's returned home, settling into “The House That Heaven Built,” or making sense of a relationship “If I had all of the answers/And you had the body you wanted/Would we love with a legendary fire?” as he sings on “Continuous Thunder.” But as much as I can try to parse through their words, maybe I've already said too much. It was an awe-inspiring night and it felt good to be alive, which is the the most ringing endorsement I could give to any band ever.