Near To The Wild Heart Of Life

Written by: TL on 06/03/2017 13:48:33

It's sort of weird to think that it has taken Vancouver duo Japandroids five years to follow-up on "Celebration Rock", their critically praised sophomore record which lifted their career and sent them touring worldwide. Yet their return has been met with excitement based on what you can read around the web, and although - to do some quick expectations management - the rumors of an album of the year candidate are greatly exaggerated, the new album "Near To The Wild Heart Of Life" is still an enjoyable record that has its moments.

The album immediately facilitates that Brian King on guitar and David Prowse on drums have not mixed their style up much at all. They play a reverberating, built-to-elate rock'n'roll, a sound like fireworks going off against the clear night sky, with King chanting prosaic lyrics into a distorted mic, about the travelling life and the scenery it plays out in. The title track kicks this soundscape off in high gear, presenting itself as the immediate highlight of the album, as King communicates the feeling of restlessness and wanting to get a move on and get out and do something, in a way that feels both believable and relatable.

"North East South West" follows in similar upbeat manner, with an attempt at a grimy love-letter to the North American continent, which gets a bit corny lyrically. It doesn't have quite the Kerouac-esque coolness it's likely going for but is otherwise a noticeable track all the same. The album then settles down to a mellower tempo for a couple of tracks, however, and while it seems prudent for Japandroids to try to introduce some variety to their approach, "True Love And A Free Life Of Free Will" and "I'm Sorry (For Not Finding You Sooner)" do not really sink in as deep. "Arc Of Bar" is more interesting then, sprawling out across seven minutes and attempting to build up a more elaborate journey of a track, compared to the preceding ones which, despite big reverb, are rather small songs structure-wise. Its patience, scope and confidence are out of the ordinary for Japandroids, which is enough to make the song stand out and make you take notice.

Yet, as the album moves through its last few tracks, closing shortly past the 36-minute mark, the duo's limitations become clearer and clearer. Despite layering guitars here and there in a way they won't be able to play live between just the two of them, the omnipresent reverb of King's guitar simply can't carry a whole record, even one of just 36 minutes. The rock'n'roll haze and wide-eyed attitude is a compelling point of departure for taking a liking to the band, but due to particularly the guitar playing being very samey in approach throughout the album, it falls to the lyrics to make the songs stand apart. And while King is a sympathetic writer and singer, his lines could really need a helping hand, in terms of some more ear-popping instrumental movements or tones.

All things considered, Japandroids return with a dose of "more of the same", which isn't so bad considering their likeable output from before, but unless you're scrutinizing the lyrics booklet, you might have a hard time tracing much noticeable development in the band's sound, past the excitement of the first couple of songs. And while there's something about keeping continuity in your concept, there's also something about being too repetitive, and the balance between the two is one that "Near To The Wild Heart Of Life" hangs in as an album.


Download: Near To The Wild Heart Of Life, North East South West, Arc Of Bar
For The Fans Of: Beach Slang, Cloud Nothings, The Thermals
Listen: facebook.com/japandroids

Release date 27.01.2017
Japandroids Recordings

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