CAMP Basement, Shoreditch, June 22nd
“We used to dream / but now we worry about dying” goes the key line from Japandroids’ breakthrough track Young Hearts Spark Fire, before guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse – both sing – close out the track insisting that “I don’t want to worry about dying / I just want to worry about those sunshine girls”.
It’s a sentiment that pretty much sums up the two-piece’s remit: a wide-eyed youthful optimism mixed with a stoic, half-jaded resignation to the banal facts of life. That Pitchfork’s Jenn Pelly recently described the lyrics of the 100% perfect new single The House That Heaven Built – specifically the lines “It’s a lifeless life / With no fixed address to give / But you’re not mine to die for anymore / So I must live” – as “some rare punk poetry” is apt. It’s no understatement to state that King’s words cut to the core of the conditions of youth; love, friendship, home, getting/being wasted, the onset of responsibility. Not bad for a band who seem simply to want to go at it as hard and as fast as possible.
Live, Japandroids play like two teenagers who’ve just discovered rock’n’roll and can barely rein it in. Prowse, especially, drums like he can hardly control his fills; it comes across as an almost instinctively reactive two-way with King’s melodic wall-of-noise guitars. The tight interplay derived from being a two-piece only seems to strengthen this. Japandroids are very much a singular unit live.
As evinced by new tracks played from the imminent Celebration Rock, (particularly Adrenaline Nightshift, The Nights of Wine and Roses and the single), the band have in part dropped the garage rock aspects of songs like Heart Sweats and embellished set opener The Boys are Leaving Town in favour of a more Springsteen-cum-punk vibe which better complements the achingly honest, enthusiastically basic messages of the lyrics. King and Prowse’s regular belting of wordless shouts are still employed as anthemic devices – or, more likely, just breathless expounding of energy – but their sound seems to have been developed to somewhere between upbeat end-of-night resurgence and bleary-eyed morning fuzz. Saying this, they’re so damn loud in the flesh that it’s hard to exactly hear much in the way of nuance.
It’s testament to the immediacy of the new material that it receives as enthusiastic a reaction as older tracks from both Post Nothing and No Singles. Still, the final triple-run of Wet Hair, Sovereignty and Young Hearts… – excepting a closing cover of The Gun Club’s For the Love of Ivy – is the highlight of the evening, a collective mission statement from a band who have punch-in-the-gut expression of intent down to a tee.
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Celebration Rock is released on Polyvinyl Record Co. on June 5th
Words: Tom Howells