I am no Japandroids expert, but even I can appreciate the sheer, raw energy via the Canadian alt-rock veterans' frustrated riffs, crashing percussion, and commanding vocals on the newly released Near to the Wild Heart of Life. The album comes after a three-year hiatus period, and is much-needed considering the impending chaos of 2017.
While I have observed the lyrics on Japandroids songs are quite literally what-you-hear-is-what-you-get, their honesty is palpable, timely, and admirable. Even the album's title is telling of the literal, declarative momentum that awaits us on this new release. Near to the Wild Heart of Life opens wildly, yet focused, with its title track. The song opens with lyrics that marry the vast scope of the country's current, political landscape with a painstakingly personal peripheral: "the future's under fire / the past is gaining ground / a continuous cold war between / my home and my hometown." The subsequent chorus is catchy, fiery, and anthemic.
The tracks that follow, "North East South West" and "True Love And A Free Life Of Free Will" feel more intimate and comparably slow, but still feature the driving intensity characteristic of Japandroids' style. The melodies feel nostalgic, maybe even dated -- but these work to the atmosphere's favor. There is a critical layer that lines each song on Near to the Wild Heart of Life, suggesting a self-awareness that injects itself into each note, each riff, each crashing cymbal. "I'm Sorry (For Not Finding You Sooner") feels leaky, impressionistic, and reflective of the constant white noise we experience everyday as citizens in this age of digital paranoia and ongoing feedback. Again, the song expertly combines a commentary on the age in which we live and a personal, confessional mirror on the speaker.
"No Known Drink Or Drug" feels disappointing compared to the rest of the album. However, the song is a great palate cleanser that preludes the finale, "In A Body Like A Grave." The latter opens up slowly and quite frankly, beautifully. The lyrics cry out, "Christ will call you out / school will deepen debt / work will sap the soul / hometown haunts what's left". Again, Japandroids employ their style of literalism and declaration, but this works for them. The chorus rings out hauntingly: "All in a lifetime, all in a body like a grave." The band tackles the complicated feeling that tows between complacent, passive acceptance and the dream for a better world, a better human condition. I'm excited for this new album as my personal introduction to Japandroids
-- a band in my peripheral that I always knew was important for alternative rock, and even indie.
|Listen to a song by clicking on a title below: