"Remember saying things like 'We'll sleep when we're dead'/ And thinking this feeling was never going to end?"
- Younger Us, Japandroids
I always enjoy Best Of lists on music blogs at the end of the year. While it can be tempting to get bogged down in arguing about who's placed where (for my money any list that didn't have The Seer as #1 was utterly utterly wrong) they're best approached as helpful spotlights on releases that passed you by the first time round. The first monthly Emusic sub after the lists go up is always a treat, as I follow up some of those recommendations and, more often than not, find a few to be my favourite albums of the passing year.
Last month was no exception, as I nerdishly studied the best ofs at The Quietus, BBC Music, Line of Best Fit, Pitchfork and Drowned in Sound, along with Emusic's own. One album that cropped up a couple of times was Celebration Rock by Japandroids, a two-man band I'd never heard or heard of before. Still, at 8 tracks it was a cheap buy (£3.36 on Emusic, £4.72 on Amazon), with an enticing review from the former promising:
"With just a guitar and a drum kit, meanwhile, the lifelong friends generate enough heat and momentum for an entire E Street band. Songs surge forward recklessly, explode, and then plow forward again."
Besides, any band that covers Mclusky can't be bad, right?
Thankfully Celebration Rock is an album that lives up both to the reviews and its own title. A million miles away from sneering indie, wistful shoegazing or detached dreampop, this is rowdy raucous rock, blazing with passion. It's way too heartfelt, too desperate to be mistaken for frat-boy rock - this is music for roaring in basement clubs, not stadiums, fists in the air, all sweat and smiles, hollered until hoarse - "we yell like hell to the heavens! HEY!"
Track after track of breathless rock hits hard, like The Hold Steady at their loudest or The Replacements at their wildest. It's such a thrill to hear, to feel this music quicken the pulse and gladden the heart. Every song's a treat, with the opening salvo of tracks particularly blistering. Even so, the album's highlight is the penultimate track, The House That Heaven Built, exploding with affirmation, a sonic bearhug of support and belief - "When they love you and they will/ (And they will!)/ Tell 'em all they'll love in my shadow/ And if they try to slow you down/ (Slow you down!)/ Tell 'em all to go to hell!" YES! PUNCH THE SKY AND MAKE IT SHATTER!
Little wonder I've been playing it on a daily basis for the last week - it makes the dullest of domestic duties altogether more enjoyable. At 36 minutes it's over all too quickly, though any longer could've been downright exhausting. Not only that, it's the perfect length for my morning commute, the closing fireworks spluttering just as the train pulls into Waverley, giving the first working day of the year a much-needed kick up the arse. HEY!