If you’re looking for an album that takes all the elements of ‘classic’ rock’n’roll, chews them up, and spits them out in some semblance of sense, Japandroids’ new offering Near To The Wild Heart Of Life might be for you.
The Canadian duo has made no secret of their anthemic Springsteen and Petty influences with previous releases Post-Nothing and aptly-titled Celebration Rock, which earned them rave reviews and spots on festival bills around the globe.
After three years of radio silence, Japandroids emerged with a surprise tour and announced their third studio album… and it’s worth the wait.
New single ‘No Known Drink Or Drug’ was released earlier in the month, and is the perfect introduction to the eight-track album. Musically, it’s standard Japandroids. Lyrically, it’s a classic narrative about a kid in a band that falls for a girl, “and no known drink, no known drug, could ever hold a candle to your love.” It’s a hint that things may be a little more tender on this album.
The title track, ‘Near To The Wild Heart Of Life’, opens the album with a drum roll and guitar riff that seems to be a leftover from Celebration Rock. If Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ was from the point of view of a Springsteen-lovin’ boy with rock’n’roll dreams, it might have sounded a little something like this.
Continuing the narrative in ‘North South East West’ the boy leaves town and joins a rock’n’roll band. It’s a story of life on the road, an ode to the USA (“America made a mess of me, when I messed with Texas and Tennessee,”) and has a little R.E.M. vibe about it.
In ‘True Love And A Free Life Of Free Will’ the boy is over the road dog life and meets the love of his life. In ‘I’m Sorry (For Not Finding You Sooner)’ the boy and girl get married. In ‘Arc Of Bar’ the boy writes the greatest rock song of all time (maybe so the band can tour with a private jet instead of a van) then in ‘Midnight To Morning’ the band becomes mega-famous and threatens the boy’s relationship. Whether this narrative is personal to Brian King and/or David Prowse is unknown, but whatever, it works.
Album closer ‘In A Body Like A Grave’ seems to have nothing to do with the rest of the narrative, but ends the whole thing on a positive note. “But remember there’s heaven in the hellest of holes, and a drink for the body is a dream for the soul,” King reminds us, after listing all the ways life can kick you in the balls – religion, money, health.
If cool guitar riffs and drum beats you subconsciously tap your fingers to are your thing, this release is right up your alley. It’s lyrically simple but poignant: the type of album you can sit back and listen to at home on a Saturday night after a few too many bourbons, but equally enjoy on a road trip (the romanticism of Route 66 and classic American road trips might even inspire you).
Japandroids – Near To The Wild Heart Of Life
‘Near To The Wild Heart Of Life’ is out today.