Music Review: “Near to the Wild Heart of Life” – Japandroids

The last episode of The Leftovers is sob inducing television, a 73 minute closer to a dizzying, chaotic, nonsensical story that spanned three seasons. But the last moment of the series erased all concerns with unresolved mysteries by telling you what you really need to know: all you need is love, love is all you need. Ya it’s corny, but really you can survive anything (including metaphysical dimension shattering global events) with someone by your side. This view, nay, this philosophy is drenched all over the 8 tracks on Canadian rock duo Japandroids’s latest album Near to the Wild Heart of Life. And they serve as infectious exaltations of that message that come together to make one of the best rock records of all time.

I don’t take that claim lightly. I started out as a Japandroids skeptic, the more I digged into their past catalog. Post-Nothing seemed like nothing more than lo-fi fetishism stuffed with energy. Celebration Rock was definitely more polished and addicting in its constant barrage of high voltage rock, but anthems about living life to the fullest eventually grew old on me. However, two things set Near to the Wild Heart of Life apart from the rest of their catalogue for me: the production value and songmanship, and the lyrical content. Brian King and Dave Prowse didn’t just simply add an acoustic guitar here and synths there to change up their sound. They incorporated extra elements in a way that throw back to the big rock sound of Petty, Springsteen, U2, and others. The songs may not be as urgent, but they are definitely more anthemic and expansive. The duo no longer feel obligated to start out guns blazin’ and raise your heart rate to 120 bpm. Rather they spend more time building an atmosphere for each song.

Lo, Japandroids purists, don’t fret! It’s not as if they King and Prowse abandoned their unyielding lust for life.  It’s just now all of their revelry is filtered through the lens of romantic companionship. Just look at the song titles: “True Love and a Free Life of Free Will”, “I’m Sorry (For Not Finding You Sooner)”, “No Known Drink or Drug”. And if that wasn’t clear enough, lyrics like ” North, east, south, west, coast to coast/ It ain’t shit compared to loving you” should tell you where their priorities lie now. You would think love songs would start to grow old but King and Prowse sing lines like, “And I’ll love you if you love me/All life long, ’til I’m gone” so genuinely you can’t help but be infected by their sentiments. And it’s that unyielding earnesty and energy that will allow King and Prowse to leave their mark on rock canon.

Label: ANTI – Records
Release Date: January 27th, 2017


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