Why is it that when The Hold Steady churn out their anthems for also-rans I break into hives, yet when Japandroids tread similar turf I lap it up? Maybe it’s because I believe the Vancouver duo actually means it, because I appreciate how they forgo the layer of smarmy detachment and let it all hang out, whether or not it’s cool. And let’s face it, Japandroids’ influences aren’t exactly bulletproof – that Celebration Rock appeared at roughly the same time as the Rock of Ages soundtrack seems oddly appropriate.
Brian King and David Prowse haven’t altered the formula much from their 2009 breakthrough Post-Nothing, other than making the hooks and lyrics sound a tad bigger and more universal. What’s remarkable is that the duo’s rudimentary bash-it-out approach hasn’t gotten tired, either. There’s not much dynamic shift to be found here – Celebration Rock enters screaming and riffing and pretty much stays there – but just when it feels like they’ve dipped into the classic rock well once too often with “Evil’s Sway,” Japandroids go thermonuclear with a cover of The Gun Club’s “For the Love of Ivy” that I never knew I needed so badly. And from there the boys seem to find yet another gear, riding home on a four-song salvo of the sort of fist-pumpers Guided By Voices envisioned for Midwestern rock radio.
Calling it dumb fun would be selling Celebration Rock short, because King turns his share of clever phrases and evokes occasional vulnerability over the specter of receding youth. But what better reason to party, if tomorrow we might die?