“Near to the Wild Heart of Life” by Japandroids

Final Rating: 9/10

I can’t imagine what it must be like for a band to have the weight of saving an entire genre on their shoulders. Especially when there are only two members.

OK, resuscitating rock music may admittedly be a tad dramatic, although name me a more feedback-forward, millennial-aged artist outside of Ty Segall than Vancouver natives Brian King and David Prowse, AKA Japandroids?

We know it didn’t end well for Kurt Cobain in 1994, and The Strokes never really lived up to their R’n’R potential thanks to the vices that did in so many other wannabe “saviours”. After more than four interminably long years since Celebration Rock, Japandroids are finally back with Near to the Wild Heart of Life…and it’s time to let loose and celebrate.

Clocking in at a punk-fficient 37 minutes, all of the songs on Near to the Wild Heart of Life feel huge, worthy of cranking it up however you may be listening and keeping it at max volume. If Japandroids are trying to develop their own template, it’s one of caffeinated guitar riffs and tachycardic drums from too many bromance coffee dates at Starbucks, coming together in a cacophony of explosive sound whose sheer force blows you back. Eight times over, in fact.

It is anything but repetitive or lather, rinse, repeat for that matter. While it’s early in the year and Trump hasn’t started building his infamous wall, methinks I’ll be revisiting this as an easy album of the year candidate. To use a baseball analogy, every single track swings for the proverbial fences as if King and Prowse are in direct, home run derby competition against one another. With apologies to overusing the term “anthemic”, Near to the Wild Heart of Life is unapologetic in its ability to instigate spontaneous singalongs. Or the odd mosh pit, in addition to making you believe in the power of rock again as an added bonus. Spring training is only a month away, but I know I’m already thinking of sweating it out to new Japandroids tunes as part of a still-to-be-announced summery lineup like Field Trip or WayHome.

They’ve also expanded the parametres of how much glorious noise a 2-piece extra spicy band can make, incorporating acoustic guitars and accompanying live fast die youngish lyrics on “North East South West” and “Midnight to Morning”, plus a few electronic beeps and bloops (“True Love and Free Will”). Experimentation aside, it doesn’t take long for their still-youthful exuberance and sonic bombasticness to overwhelm whatever Japandroids have collectively created.

As a self-proclaimed garage rock aficionado, I can’t say I was wholeheartedly ecstatic about them taking such a long break between albums, leaving the void they did. There is something to be said though about pacing themselves properly so as to be in it for the long haul. These are ’droids you’re looking for. Better them than the dreaded return of Nickelback, that’s for darn sure. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to space out for 7+ minutes of bliss on “Arc of Bar”. Again.

Highest. Possible. ROCKmendation!

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