“He was alone. He was unheeded, happy, and near to the wild heart of life.” – from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce
Celebration Rock, Japandroids’ 2012 album, is easily one of my top five favorite rock albums of the last five years. From start to finish, the songs are strong, energetic, and catchy. The songs pull no surprises, but are well-written and lean, full of epic drum fills and loud guitars. Lyrically, the album focuses on the Springsteen-like fleeting and lost moments of younger “daze” – lost loves, endless summer nights, epic nights out.
There is something about Near to the Wild Heart of Life that loses almost all of that. Songs such as the title track, “Midnight to Morning”, and “In a Body Like a Grave” definitely recapture the magic of Celebration Rock. The title track is already one of my favorite songs of 2017, and it is most representative of the songs from Near to the Wild Heart of Life. Conversely, songs like “No Known Drink or Drug” and “I’m Sorry (for Not Finding You Sooner)” just seem like songs that were lazily written. A couple songs, like “Arc of Bar” show some experimentation with an electronic flange effect. But after over seven minutes and nary a change in the song with the exception of some “yeah, yeahs”, it gets old quite quickly.
Lyrically, the songs seem to be a little bit more poetic than in the past. There is a lot more wordplay and vivid descriptions. The lyrics address some of the same themes from Celebration Rock, but also a lot of the lyrical subjects revolve around the around the toll that touring and the rock’n’roll lifestyle has taken on the band. Maybe that’s why so much of this album sounds a little tired.
Recommended If You Like: The Hold Steady, The Replacements, Beach Slang, Bruce Springsteen, Titus Andronicus
Recommended Tracks: 1 (Near to the Wild Heart of Life), 6 (Midnight to Morning)
Do Not Play: 2 (North East South West), 8 (In a Body Like a Grave)
Written by Josh Gaston on 02/05/2017