Japandroids carve our their own niche with ‘Near To The Wild Heart Of Life’

Japandroids

Photo by Camilo Christen

Japandroids to Headline Two Los Angeles Dates at Fonda Theatre in Support of New Album ‘Near To The Wild Heart Of Life’

 
Hit or stand? It’s a question that’s plagued more gamblers than rock bands, but it feels like something Japandroids members Brian King and Dave Prowse might’ve asked themselves before crafting Near To the Wild Heart of Life. For two LPs, two EPs, and a handful of singles, Japandroids have religiously walked a path of rock n’ roll tradition, both in their long-talks-and-late-night-drives imagery and their minimalist approach to translating maximal feelings. Up to this point, singer-guitarist King and drummer Prowse haven’t strayed much from this formula—their 2012 breakthrough Celebration Rock was acclaimed as the full realization of “the Japandroids sound,” and its hefty touring cycle differed only from their previous six years in that the venues were bigger and more packed. But they did slow down, and sometime during that three-year hiatus they apparently decided to hit. Near To the Wild Heart of Life is unmistakably the same band that made Celebration Rock and Post-Nothing, but with more subversion of the expectations around it than many bands on a hotly tipped third record would attempt. Luckily, King and Prowse have managed to make a record that carves out its own niche independent of their back catalog, but doesn’t abandon the combination of ambition and enthusiasm that made them a Great Band in the first place.

Wild Heart leads off with its title track, which takes a shot at becoming the platonic ideal of a Japandroids song – beefy riffs, lyrics about BFF motivational talks and girls who kiss like choruses, those damn catchy “woah-oh”s, etc. But there’s more going on behind the scenes than usual, from the filter-sweep intro to the subtle layers of guitar in that wide-open instrumental hook. That balance of classic-rock directness and open-canvas studio work is what Japandroids seek to perfect here.

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The next track, “North East South West”, doubles down on their stake in this new territory, hiding the Japandroids guitar tone behind acoustic strumming and a sampled, nearly danceable drumbeat. But the lyrics are what make “NESW” Japandroids’ closest call with real flag-waving rock ‘n’ roll – King rattles off North American cities as he rampages through them, then devotes the chorus to his girl back home, ‘cuz “The trouble that I get into / it ain’t shit compared to loving you.” It’s a surprisingly effective dip into full-on homage – Japandroids have always proudly worn their Springsteen & Petty influences, but branching out their sound allows them to more fully write like them without coming off as copycats.

Japandroids

Japandroids at FYF Fest 2011

Still, many fully original ideas come into play across Wild Heart. “I’m Sorry (For Not Finding You Sooner)” throws King’s lonesome howl into near-shoegaze feedback, while Prowse doubles with a drum machine for something that feels closer to The Field (yes, the ambient-techno guy) than anything else in their catalog. When the song folds in on itself and disintegrates at just two minutes and 28 seconds, it feels like a line in the sand separating the Japandroids of 2017 from any previous incarnation. However, their new clothes aren’t without some loose seams – the plodding “Arc of Bar” sways back and forth between two chord progressions over seven and a half minutes. Aside from some additional production, the track doesn’t really “go” anywhere, and its burned-out-jam-session pulse makes the length feel like a half-baked idea rather than an indulgence.

Despite stretching out their legs, King and Prowse certainly haven’t lost the ability to write a killer hook or two. Recent single “No Known Drink or Drug” could be called this record’s “The House That Heaven Built” – it’s even situated at track seven of eight, the same space as its Celebration Rock counterpart. It flips “Heaven”’s cathartic woah-oh-ohs into hushed sha-na-na-na-nas, but keeps the pressure building throughout the track, finally exploding into a skyscraping chorus nearly two-thirds of the way in, then filtering out into oblivion. If “NESW” is a smooth cocktail of Japandroids new and old, “Drink or Drug” is the moonshine that gets you where you need to go. Luckily for your liver, there’s no harm in putting it on over and over.

Near To The Wild Heart Of Life’s release just two weeks after the XX’s I See You feels uncanny – not only are they highly-anticipated third records from breakout buzz bands, but they both tear renowned minimalists from their self-imposed limitations, allowing the artists to redefine what their band “is”. While the XX’s latest took influence from their previous secret weapon’s pop + dance expertise, Japandroids have found themselves in uncharted waters for any (well, either) of their members. Some of Near To The Wild Heart Of Life’s experiments may feel like overshoots, but underneath the synth pads and drum machines are Brian King and Dave Prowse, two friends making a singular brand of music and having more fun with it than almost anyone else.

Words: Ray Begleite


Stream Japandroids’ new album Near To The Wild Heart Of Life below, and / or purchase the album via BandCamp here.

Japandroids have two Los Angeles dates at the Fonda Theatre on March 9 and March 10, with an Orange County date at The Observatory in Santa Ana on March 13. Check out their entire run of tour dates below.

Japandroids 2017 Tour Dates
2/7 – Austin, TX – Mohawk Inside
2/8 – Austin, TX – Waterloo Records (in-store performance)
2/13 – Madison, WI – Majestic Theatre*
2/14 – Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue*
2/15 – Chicago, IL – Vic Theatre* SOLD OUT
2/17 – Toronto, ON – Danforth Theatre* SOLD OUT
2/18 – Toronto, ON – Danforth Theatre*
2/20 – Boston, MA – Royale*
2/23 – New York, NY – Terminal 5*
2/24 – Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer* SOLD OUT
2/25 – Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer*
2/27 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club* SOLD OUT
2/28 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club*
3/01 – Carrboro, NC – Cat’s Cradle*
3/03 – Atlanta, GA – Variety Playhouse*
3/04 – Birmingham, AL – Saturn*
3/05 – St Louis, MO – The Ready Room*
3/07 – Denver, CO – Gothic Theatre*
3/09 – Los Angeles, CA – Fonda Theatre*
3/10 – Los Angeles, CA – Fonda Theatre* SOLD OUT
3/11 – San Diego, CA – Music Box*
3/13 – Santa Ana, CA -Observatory*
3/14 – San Francisco, CA – Fillmore*
3/15 – San Francisco, CA – Fillmore*
3/17 – Portland, OR – Revolution Hall*
3/18 – Seattle, WA – Neptune*
3/20 – Vancouver, BC – Commodore Ballroom*
4/18 – Copenhagen, Denmark – Pumpehuset
4/19 – Hamburg, Germany – Uebel & Gefährlich
4/20 – Cologne, Germany – Gebaude 9
4/22 – Berlin, Germany – Columbia Theater
4/23 -Frankfurt, Germany – Zoom
4/24 – Amsterdam, Netherlands – Melkweg
4/26 – Paris, France – La Maroquinerie
4/27 – Brussels, Belgium – The Rotonde / Botanique
4/28 – Birmingham, UK – o2 Institute Birmingham
4/30 – Glasgow, UK – The Garage
5/01 – Leeds, UK – Stylus
5/02 – Nottingham, UK – Rescue Rooms
5/04 – Manchester, UK – Gorilla
5/05 – Brighton, UK – Concorde 2
5/06 – London, UK – o2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
6/03 – Barcelona, Spain – Primavera Sound
6/04 – Barcelona, Spain – Primavera Sound
6/10 – Porto, Portugal – Primavera Sound
* with Craig Finn

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