Japandroids: “Near To The Wild Heart Of Life” Album Review

Written By: Ethan Griggs

My Music: ethangriggsmusic.virb.com

It’s fair to say that Japandroids sound like a lot of different bands, and that’s a compliment given that their sound ultimately closes in on a specific sound. Through the post-adolescent angst of their new album Near To The Wild Heart Of Life the duo from Vancouver explore 90’s rock in various shapes and forms and they bring back the Springsteen sentimentality as well. Just under forty minutes in length, the follow up to 2012’s defining Celebration Rock is quick yet concise. Singer/guitarist Brian King manages to cram all of this self reflection and life assessment into a brief eight songs without making the record feel overdone and too sprawling in its themes.

The album immediately kicks into high gear with its opening title track. A tale about the hardships of having to grow up, leave home, and live your own life, the lyrics sting with first person reality – it feels like King is telling us a story. On the standout “North East South West,” King delivers an honest ode to Canada, and it feels like you’re on the tour bus with the band going “coast to coast”.

Many of the best tracks on the record are the ones that feature one of punk rock’s most cherished traditions: gang vocals. The vocals in these gangs, though, are far more melodic than many other punk bands, and you can hear this on tracks like the enormous and intoxicating “Arc Of Bar” and the anthemic album closer “In A Body Like A Grave”. The overall songwriting on the album is fantastic, but what makes it work are the album’s soaring sonic textures, including shoegazey synth-like guitars [“I’m Sorry (For Not Finding You Sooner)”] and, of course, the thumping and floor-pounding drums of David Prowse (“Midnight To Morning”).

If their debut album Post-Nothing was a mission statement and Celebration Rock the grand master thesis, Near To The Wild Heart Of Life is the product of a Japandroids that sound like they’ve done¬† some growing up during their five year hiatus. It’s some of the most melodic beautiful punk music you’re bound to hear in any year, regardless of its release. With its dripping nostalgia and stinging lyrical insights about growing up and moving on, fans of bands blink-182 and Fall Out Boy will appreciate this album just as much as fans of more mainstream rock acts from the 80’s and 90’s like Third Eye Blind.