For any other band, this latest record would be phenomenal. That being said, we finally have the third-studio album from the Japandroids, “Near To The Wild Heart Of Life.” While it can be an exciting and fun record to listen to, it is a little bit too off base with its more classic rock and alternative feel. Ultimately we see the Japandroids clean up their sound, and not necessarily for the better.
The Japandroids are a punk-rock duo based out Vancouver, Canada. Their origins date back to 2006 with their debut album “Post-Nothing” which brought them to mainstream attention. “Post-Nothing” can only be described as a good combination of classic and post-punk rock that had a much more unique sound. In short, Japandroids were a breath of fresh air for an age that does not resemble classic rock elements anymore. The band really took off with the release of their second album “Celebration Rock.” This record brought about a lot of critical acclaim that was well deserved, arguably being one of the strongest records released in 2012. The band had found their footing and were well on their way. Now, just five years later, we finally got the release of the third album “Near To The Wild Heart Of Life.”
“Near To The Wild Heart Of Life” is an eight-track record that clocks in around 37 minutes long. From front to back, it is a fun and exciting record to listen to, and it more than easy enough to lose yourself in the music. That being said, the most apparent difference from this versus any of the band’s previous work is noticeable right from the start. Vocals are not as gritty as they once were, the guitar is mixed in so well it is actually a really clean record. There are so many layers here all working together, that if one thing were out of place this record would fall flat on its face. This is more along the lines of something we would of saw back in the Tom Petty days, which is not bad, but for long-time fans, maybe this record is not exactly what they were expecting.
Musically, there is a lot of moving pieces all over this record. It builds up in small increments and releases, but it only manages this a couple of times. The tracks are layered really well, and this record is methodically thought out to the placement. Everything is supposed to be where it is, and this is usual from Japandroids. Drums are not nearly as memorable this time around and the rhythm is a little over the place in some tracks. All that being said, one of the standout tracks has to be “Arc of Bar.” The main reason for this is that this is the most classic rock style song on the whole record. It carries interest for the entire seven and a half minutes. The harmonies are great, and it has a very memorable melody, which is hard to say about some of the other tracks.
Lyrically, this is some of the simplest song writing we have seen from the Japandroids. Nothing is special. Most tracks focus on either getting out of town, or some girl. There are some less-than-subtle religious undertones, but they do really have a lot of fun with how simple these tracks are. You find yourself shouting along to the chorus on tracks like “North East South West,” while on tracks like “No Known Drink or Drug,” you cannot help but feel like it is a bit too relatable. There is not really anything complex with the song lyrics and the delivery at times can be a bit too monotone, but that is all second to the music. It is hard not to find something to sing along to.
Should You Listen to It?: Maybe
“Near To The Wild Heart Of Life” comes down to a couple of things. If you have never heard of Japandroids, this is a good record to start out with, just keep in mind that they do have some way better music to check out. Secondly, if you are a longtime fan of the band, this is more of an OK album that should be approached tentatively. It is one of those records that is more mindlessly fun to listen to than anything else. It is a great alternative record, just not a great punk record.