ALBUM REVIEW: 'Near To The Wild Heart Of Life' by Japandroids
  • FRIDAY, JANUARY 20, 2017

  • Posted by: Jack Labbe

RATING: 3/5



Japandroids are no longer the new kids on the block. 2009's Post-Nothing brought their hormonal yells and fuzz guitars to the surface when Pitchfork named them an artist to watch. The Canadian punk duo were thinking of calling it quits before the release of this debut album, but after finding a bit of success and touring the country they released Celebration Rock in 2012. This album changed everything. They landed on just about every album of the year listand rightfully so. Celebration Rock was brutally american and youthful, creating a soundscape that made you feel like you were at your first rock show again. 4 and a half years later and we finally have a follow up to Celebration Rock.

Near To The Wild Heart Of Life is definitely not Celebration Rock, nor should it be. Although, a few things have stayed the same: the guitar is huge and you can still pound your fist and yell at certain intervals. But, it seems as though the duo has set their focus on self-reflection as opposed to drinking and driving fast. We still get a taste of that golden trope, with songs like "No Known Drink Or Drug," where Brian King sings about love being better than substances. However, the song seems to end just when you thought it was starting. On this new album, they obviously tried to abandon the screaming choruses that come back 3-4 times model. Instead they chose to build and build until we're finally brought into the chorus, but then it just fades out without an explanation.

The urge to sound new and not like their last album also comes through when they add another instrument, abandoning the guitar and drums persona, to have a synth line on "Arc of Bar" and "True Love And A Free Life Of Free Will." "Arc of Bar" serves as an axe to chop the album in half, as it goes on for over seven minutes, which is a new record for the Japandroids. No more constant adrenaline flowing drum beats, this time it seems the Japandroids want us to really sit with their music and digest it.

The first half of the album seems to be about the old Japandroids and home. The title track, "Near To The Wild Heart Of Life" delivers the bombastic classic rock lyrics that the Japandroids are known for but things start to slow down from there. The beats per minute drop and it seems like they started to venture out of the garage and embrace the stadiums that they've gotten used to playing. The second half of the album creates this new sound for the group. There are a few hiccups however. Their lyrics come in a little too relaxed and lack the type of angst that allow a message to be understood over huge guitars and drums. There even seems to be a lack of belief in what they're singing about.

This album seems to be more about building up to something instead of being something. With every song, I wait for it to get somewhere, but it ends in disappointment a repeated line and a big rocking snare hit. None of the songs jumped out and said anything to me the way that there last record did, I got no story, no ambition just 8 more songs. With Near To The Wild Of Life, Japandroids unfortunately seem to be too focused on stripping back the rock sound that got them so far that they forgot to add substance or storytelling to make the slower pace work.

The album is streaming now on NPR, and set to drop everywhere else on January 27th.
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