The best rock record of 2012 is not some overwrought, double-disc affair, nor was it presided over by a studio pro like Rick Rubin or Butch Vig, and it doesn’t contain a single instance of dubstep . Rather, it is an eight-song, 35-minute fist-pumper called Celebration Rock, the second (barely) full-length from Japandroids, a pair of unassuming everydudes from Vancouver.
And what Celebration Rock lacks in general grandiosity, it more than makes up for in sheer sonic wallop, featuring thundering drums, rousing riffs and more top-volume “Woah-oh-ohs!” than any record in recent memory. Much like the duo that made it, the record is a brazenly blue-collar, proudly scruffy thing, a revelatory, celebratory disc that seems tailor-made for beery, cheery sing-alongs and all manner of drunken debauchery. It is meant to be played very loud, very often and very late at night. It doesn’t quit, and it never really slows down to catch its breath either.
And it has, in the weeks leading up to its release, earned all manner of critical acclaim, including a Best New Music designation from Pitchfork and a recent review on Grantland that compared it to the Who’s Who’s Next, Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction, the Replacements’ Let It Be, Nirvana’s Nevermind and the White Stripes’ White Blood Cells … all in the space of a single paragraph.
And if that last bit of praise seems a bit, well, unbelievable to you, you’re not alone. Not surprisingly, the guys who actually made the album are having a pretty hard time wrapping their heads around all the adoration Celebration Rock has received.
“It all sounds ridiculous to me,” drummer David Prowse laughed. “I mean, come on.”
“We love all those records, and I don’t think it would be out of the realm of reality to say you could hear those influences on our record, but to compare them in a quality sense is pretty ridiculous,” guitarist/singer Brian King added. “Especially given the fact that a lot of those records weren’t hailed as masterpieces, like, the day after they came out. They had to earn their place in rock history … obviously, we’re nowhere near that yet.”
Yet, they’re definitely appreciative of all the attention. After all, making Celebration Rock was a true task in every sense of the word. Burned out after two years of touring behind their debut (2009’s Post-Nothing), Prowse and King returned home to begin work on the album, only to find, well, they had nothing left in the tank. And the situation certainly didn’t improve over the next few months. So, riddled with doubt and no record on the horizon, they decided to leave the city and head all the way across the continent, to Nashville, where they isolated themselves and decided to make an album that would give them an excuse to head back out on the road.
“I think, in general, the first record was about being stationary and not wanting to be stationary, and this record is actually about being on the move and liking being on the move,” King explained. “When we wrote the first one, we were just a local band. We had never been on tour, we had no fans, so you’re just kind of writing the songs for yourselves, for fun. But having played a couple hundred shows in between writing this one, you now have a brand-new thing to take into account when you sit down to write a song. You have an audience, you play shows every night, you know when you play songs what works and what doesn’t. And you can apply that to the songwriting process.
“And having played all those shows, we’ve known what songs garnered the kind of reaction that we wanted,” he continued. “And it was sort of like, ’Let’s just write a whole album of those kind of songs, so when we play a set, instead of it being kind of like peaks and valleys of energy and excitement, it’s just one big peak the whole time we play.’ ”
So far, Japandroids have basically done nothing but play the songs on Celebration Rock, and the end result has been shows that match the album’s exhilarating scope — “On a good night, it’s just a big, sweaty mess,” Prowse laughed — and they’ll remain on the road until the end of the summer. And then, perhaps, they’ll actually take a minute to bask in their accomplishments, and prepare themselves for the album’s inevitable conclusion on year-end “best of” lists. But then again, maybe they won’t.
“Maybe when all the touring is done, we’ll enjoy it. Everything has been happening so fast, and when we’re on tour, the focus is on the shows, and everything else goes right through you,” King said. “It’s only when you get an extended break, you get a chance to breathe … and you can kind of take a load off and let it sink in. But even then, you know, we probably still won’t believe it.”