It is easy to say that the Japandroids, Canada’s breakout monster ballad two piece are one of the best touring rock acts out there right now. Following their monster breakout album “Celebration Rock”, which had some of the catchiest singles of the past few years and a kick butt live tour along with a enormous amounts of buzz from followers, The Japandroids had their work cut out for them when crafting this 2017 follow up. Yet on the strength of their past efforts and with some positive word of mouth surrounding it, I picked up “Near to the Wild Heart of Life” about three months ago without even listening to it first, and it has rarely left my car stereo.
The opening title track “Near to the Wild Heart of life” is just as epic a summertime anthem as their massively famous single, the understandably popular “The House that Heaven Built”. The songwriting is epic and great, it has a catchy chorus, one can almost sing along with “It get’s me all fired up” without even having heard the rest of the song, by the time the chorus winds down with “I used to be good but now I am bad” the singer/listener has walked in the shoes of the band and experienced their revelation along to the beat of the drums. The whole awakening is very warm and organic, crunchy guitars and breakdowns that grow wild like weeds breaking through concrete.
After that opener, the rest of the album still feels like a healthy meal, the meat and potatoes classic rock and roll styling is all cooked up to perfection and nothing feels like cheap filler or wasted by product. The punk and classic rock influences of Bruce Springsteen and the Replacements can be found in the production and guitar work, the band is a two man show, a drummer David Prowse and a guitarist Brian King with both putting in vocal work, however the entire album fills in the sound and the songs never feel empty. The vocals are all tight and sung with fervor, and the musicianship is expert class. I haven’t been able to play the album without singing along in the car, or lowering my windows and turning up the speakers.
With the summertime Floridian sun drenching every inch around me, the Japandroids have been a constant companion through the heat. The song “Arc of Bar” feels like a Husker Du song in places and really has attitude. The anger and the poetry of the lyrics are all very keenly aware of their effects and power levels. I strongly recommend listening to this album on the road, I feel like it was built for a road trip, as the winding turns of the tracks move at 80 miles per hour, and never let go of the gas. While the album was dropped in the coldest part of the year (January) it has remained in heavy rotation and holds my spot for Summertime anthem of the year.