Welcome back, Japandroids. A hiatus of five years, three of which in complete silence, was long enough. Brian King and David Prowse are back. ‘Near To The Wild Heart Of Life’ is the band’s third studio album and it follows up to the critically acclaimed ‘Celebration Rock’ (2012), bringing back to us that sound that the Canadian duo has always loved describing as “one part rock, one part punk”.
It was definitely one of the most awaited releases of this first quarter of 2017, at least since the band announced – back in August – some live shows for the last months of 2016, with instant rumours spreading about the prospect of a new album. Here we are, at last, holding a brand new record: eight tracks, less than 36 minutes of vibrant distorted guitar and obsessive drum riffs.
It all starts as we did remember Japandroids: the title-track opens up quite soon, sounding very much like ‘Celebration Rock’. You would then expect this Vancouver-based duo to embark the old and safe route, but the thing is that this 2017 edition of Japandroids has a slightly different soul. ‘North East South West’ is one of the more delicate and tender chapters, a song that shows the different sides of the band. Powerful riffs are still played with the amps turned to max volume; drums hit the lyricism that goes through the well-known “alcohol and girl” theme. However, King and Prowse sound more mature and they definitely seem to take a new direction with their writing.
‘True Love And A Free Life Of Free Will’ validates the above: it’s one of the best numbers of the entire album, together with ‘Arc Of Bar’ and – most of all – ‘Midnight To Morning’. ‘No Known Drinks Or Drugs’ is another remarkable track, just before the bittersweet finale (‘In A Body Like A Grave’), where Japandroids delicately leave the scene.
Time brings along changes and it’s clear that Japandroids are not the same they used to be. They used to write loud, fast and easy-going songs to make people move and feel warm. Their songwriting sounds now more complex, less direct. ‘Near To The Wild Heart Of Life’ will surely make happy their closest fans, although might be struggling a bit to match the Canadians’ former glory.
Listening to this album, I got the impression to be in front of a band who decided to move forward (always the right choice, I would dare to say). The Vancouver-based duo decided to down a bit, without losing their distinctive hallmarks. Time will tell if Japandroids are still worth to be on the edge. Meantime, press play again.
ANTI- | 2017
Tracklist and Stream