When people say, “Rock is dead,” they’ve never heard Japandroids. The band’s 2009 debut Post-Nothing was so good that it kept the duo from breaking up, and 2012’s Celebration Rock (QRO review) was one of the best records of the year (and QRO’s #1 – QRO’s Top Albums of 2012). Of course, this gives the band a lot to live up to, and even if Near To the Wild Heart of Life doesn’t top Celebration, indeed sounds very similar, it’s still an absolutely great sound.
Yes, Near is near to Celebration Rock, including once more being only eight tracks & under forty minutes. But the titular opener gets one so fired up about Japandroids again, a group that wisely took some time off after touring Celebration, so they feel fresh again. The following “North East South West” is just a totally great call to action in America from the Vancouver duo (it might have been written pre-Trump, but is only more applicable today).
Admittedly, after that amazing start, the rest of Near can’t quite keep up, and the end of the thirty-minutes plus doesn’t exhaust one as with Celebration. Still, “True Love and a Free Life of Free Will” showcases a more wistful side of the punk rock band, and Life closes with the very evocative take on yesterday & tomorrow, “In a Body Like a Grave”.
Even if Near To the Wild Heart of Life can’t be as impressive as Celebration Rock, that’s just because you can’t hear the band again for the first time. It’s just great to Japandroids back and in fine form.