REASON TO CHEER The optimistic, heart-on-your sleeve power guitar-rock of Japandroids' Celebration Rock couldn't come at a better time.
The same week I first heard Celebration Rock (Polyvinyl), the new sophomore LP by Canadian rock duo Japandroids, I bought a plane ticket to Spain. Maybe it was a coincidence, or maybe it was the album's extraordinary ability to inspire reckless #YOLO decisions. Who knows? But six days later, I'm in Europe. It's 2:30 am, and I'm standing backstage at Barcelona's Primavera Sound festival. A few feet away, Japandroids are getting ready to take the stage.
"I want this to be loud as fuck," 29-year-old frontman Brian King says to the sound guy. "I need a beer. And a shot of Jameson." Minutes later, Japandroids are facing a crowd of thousands; blinding beams of white and blue lights fill the stage, clouds of smoke pour in from the sides. "You guys still awake? I know it's late," King screams out. "Not only is tonight the end of the night, but it's the end of our tour, so let's get fucking wild, shall we?"
King hits a quick riff on his guitar; the crowd roars, hands are thrown in the air, plastic cups of cheap beer are raised. "This is the fucking time, let's fucking do it!" he adds. "This song's called 'The Boys Are Leaving Town' . . . and they're going to fucking Barcelona, baby!"
King and drummer David Prowse plunge into their first song, one from their 2009 record Post-Nothing. Like each of their high-energy, life-affirming, power-rock jams, it's the type of song that immediately inspires images of kids screaming along in the front row, slamming beers, hunched over barricades, crowd surfing, staying out until the sun comes up. That's all happening here.
They follow "Boys" with 10 more of their critically acclaimed songs about life, death, love, nostalgia, and dreaming: next is "Adrenaline Nightshift" ("There's no high like this/Adrenaline nightshift") and the nostalgic plea to reclaim youthfulness that is "Younger Us" ("Remember saying things like, 'We'll sleep when we're dead'/And thinking this feeling was never gonna end?"). They play through highlights from their new album: "The Night of Wine and Roses" ("Don't we have anything to live for?/Well, of course we do") and the wide-eyed dreaming of "Fire's Highway" ("Turn some restless nights to restless years"). Their two biggest singles, "The House That Heaven Built" (2012 song-of-the-year material) and "Young Hearts Spark Fire," come late in their set.
"Wet Hair" is dedicated to the group of kids "going ballistic" in the front, while their cover of the Gun Club's "For the Love of Ivy" goes out to the other bands on the festival; "The Dirty Three, the War on Drugs, White Denim, the list goes on," King says. "We're much bigger music fans than we are band dudes."