|Rating: 4.5 / 5
Reviewer: Greg Hutton
Celebration Rock is the most aptly named album of 2012; a party record with a conscience, a celebration tinged with nostalgia. Calling it a party record actually requires a redefinition of the term. The voices in ‘The Nights of Wine and Roses’ are not indulging in rock and roll excess, but instead express innocent escapism informed by the basic ludicrousness of their actions. Yes, drinking and smoking all night are essentially acts of needless self-destruction, but they’re fun, and more than this they are the kind of nights that are later recalled most fondly. Tracks such as ‘Adrenaline Nightshift’ share a similar viewpoint, in that the message seems to be even if the good times aren’t completely over, the end looms largely on the horizon. This sentiment is best captured in the album’s spiritual centerpiece, ‘Younger Us’ which quite clearly hearkens back to carefree days and memories of good times. It’s a party record, sure, but it’s also a little heartbreaking.
Japandroids’ lyrical evolution is a noteworthy element of the record. The can’t-help-but-sing-along chants of their earlier work is largely retained, but is also welcomingly fleshed out with longer, more varied verses. As catchy as earlier efforts were, it turns out the band can be equally as impressive when demonstrating their eloquence. Also of note is another entry in the band’s excellent choices in cover songs (following such welcome entries as McLusky’s ‘To Hell with Good Intentions’ and Big Black’s ‘Racer X’) with Gun Club’s ‘For the Love of Ivy’. Japandroids have a knack for making a cover their own, highlighting what they do best without trying to outdo the originals. Wisely, there are no attempts to out-wail Gun Club’s Jeffrey Lee Pierce or out-rockabilly the original. They stick to what they do best, and in doing so successfully make the song their own.
Like the best parties, the record ends long before anyone has thought to glance at a watch or made plans to enliven the proceedings with a change of venue. That the Japandroids have kept up their energy at this pace through two albums and a b-sides collection is commendable. Usually it is nearly impossible to recreate exactly the fun or essence of the best parties later on even if the same components are present. In fact, attempting to do so often results in a bummer. All that said, the Japandroids avoid any of the potential letdown inherent to following up a highly regarded precursor by creating another essential album. This is indeed celebration-inducing rock.