If you physically hold Japandroids‘ sophomore release alongside their 2009 debut Post-Nothing, there are very few aesthetic differences between the two. Fittingly, Celebration Rock does very little to venture from the sound that has earned the band such critical admiration and a strong following in three years. The album is still around half an hour long, there are still just eight tracks, and the sound is still based solely around guitar and drums. However, that doesn’t make Celebration Rock a repeat effort. Quite the contrary — while the duo of Brian King and David Prowse stick to an approach that works, they do so by expanding and pushing the energy just enough to present a slight improvement over their extremely well received debut.
Opening and closing with the sound of fireworks, Japandroids showcase the energy of their live shows throughout the record, truly embodying the celebration to which the title alludes. Opening with “The Nights of Wine and Roses,” which pays homage to destructively exciting party nights, the duo boasts, “We don’t cry for those nights to arrive, we yell like hell to the heavens.” Pushing through with “Fire’s Highway” and “Evil’s Sway,” King and Prowse continue to thrash and yell, but display a little more songwriting prowess than on their debut. This is most noticeable in the increased use of double-tracked vocals in the choruses on Celebration Rock. Whereas Post-Nothing gave the impression that whoever sang lead on each track was in charge, this time around King/Prowse sound much more comfortable chanting and harmonizing together.
Deeper into the album, Japandroids pay dues to their blues-punk influences with a rather satisfying cover of The Gun Club’s “For the Love of Ivy.” Since the song doesn’t have much in the way of a vocal melody, the sing-speak serves as a good breaking point for the first half of Celebration Rock. Things slow down just a bit again for “Adrenaline Nightshift,” a powerful track that doesn’t stand out too much among the rest, but serves as a solid piece of the whole. “Younger Us” immerses itself in the die-hard urge to be young and restless again, and delivers an outstandingly effective breakdown around the two-minute mark, only to give way to “The House That Heaven Built,” the strongest anthem on the record. Reaping their most pure-hearted angst, King and Prowse holler, “When they love you, and they will, tell them all they’ll love in my shadow/ And if they try to slow you down, tell them all to go to hell.”
Similar to Post-Nothing, the album comes to a finish with a nice and slow (for garage-punk) ballad of love lost and possibly regained. “Continuous Thunder” builds and ends with a series of questions, cascading to an instrumental build, eventually drowned by expansive fireworks, ending the aural celebration. There’s something about Japandroids that really hits the right spot for guitar-driven indie rock.. It might be the simple, stripped down approach that never seems incomplete. Or it could be that they thrash and yell with the spirit of punk, but with an emphasis on the youthful celebrations of nights out and falling in love. Whatever it is, it’s backed by the creative spirit and intimate connection of two rockers who deserve the spotlight that’s shone on them in the past three years. A-plus all around, boys.