Near To The Wild Heart Of Life Album Review
Released January 27, 2017
Genre: Noise Rock, Indie Rock, Heartland Rock
The greatest analogy I’ve heard used to describe Celebration Rock (from a source I cannot remember), likens the 2012 record to (and I paraphrase) “a friend that comforts one in need, placing their arm around your shoulder, and reassuring you that this shit you’re going through happens to everyone.” It highlights an important concept in the realm of art – music, film, literature, what have you – and one that youth should all be able to express/feel once they grow up: empathy. Japandroids make visceral and fist-pumping noise rock tunes that will prompt group choruses, another round of beers with your buds, and the promise of a hopeful tomorrow. With this new record, they fuse heartland rock into the fold driving home the narrative of belonging, and the importance of struggling with change when growing up.
The album opens with a by-the-books Japandroids track, and it’s a welcome listen; the flaming guitars are righteous and true, and the chorus just begs to be sung by pals in a bar at two in the morning. “North South East West” brings in some heartland rock/country twang, but remains close to Japandroids’ M.O of group choruses and good times. “True Love And A Free Life Of Free Will,” a great fusion of noisy guitars and sustained heartland rock catharsis, is perhaps the best fusion of this new Japandroids sound here. The boldest move here however, is the near seven-and-a-half minute “Arc of Bar”, which begins rather jarringly with some synth repetition, before Japandroids bring back the group choruses and good feelings that we have all known to love about them – sustaining this feeling through repetition and prolonged group choruses that keep this feeling of comfort ubiquitous.
Despite these highlights, Japandroids fail to surpass Celebration Rock, and the ideas run out of steam almost halfway through the record. “Midnight To Morning” is pure Springsteen, up to the meditations on home and going back to a place of the past, and its fusion of noise rock and the warmth of heartland rock runs pretty dry and becomes a little one-noter. “No Known Drink Or Drug” is a return to the basics, and not even the chorus could provide that certain emphatic response it is so meticulously constructed to provoke. The album closer is a rather forgettable foray into the rustic acoustic guitar balladry that Japandroids introduce to us here, and it doesn’t cap the album off with a bang and the end result leaves one wanting more.
By fusing Springsteen-influences, synths, and their by-the-books sound, Japandroids come back with an album that shows them able to experiment while holding true to their sound. However, this new record here does not deliver the same enticing results of camaraderie and youthful bliss that they can deliver with a fiery intensity. The songwriting has improved by a tad bit, with Japandroids smoothly crafting songs about growing up and heading home; but here, the charm and passion of simply going through the struggles as a youth are long gone, and in has come the uncertainty and malaise of young adulthood.
FAV TRACKS: Near To The Wild Heart Of Life, True Love And A Free Life Of Free Will, Arc of Bar
LEAST FAV TRACK: In A Body Like A Grave