Japandroids - Near to the Wild Heart of Life
Near to the Wild Heart of Life
The first few seconds of the first song from the new Japandroids album make you expect one thing and when the actual song comes in it is completely different. The intro lets loose this growing buzz signaling something sinister this way comes yet "Near tot the Wild Heart of Life" is at best just a pop punk song. Japandroids always banked on their grittiness getting them through. Their music was stripped down, raunchy and more of an unhinged celebration but this new record has so much polish that most of that charm has evaporated. You wanted to root for these guys because they were the underdog, talking about their hometown, drinking beer and flirting with women. They also put so much fire into their songs, the drums banged, the guitar ripped and Brian King would yell until his voice gave out. This new album however, their third, is their most polished often to it's detriment. "I'm Sorry (For Not Finding You Sooner)" is such an overblown track, and so outside of what they usually do that you find it hard to believe that it is even the same band. The sense of lightness and humor that was so integral to all of their best songs seemed to have evaporated on this record and they take themselves extremely serious.
No song exemplifies this more than the seven minute opus "Arc of Bar". You would expect all this music to reach some kind of point but instead King just stumbles around attempting to use Neil Young's dictionary with his references to "hustlers" and "devils". The song is so damn long just to be long, the music never changes especially in the last minute which is just an absolute barrage of the same. The later tracks seems to take a more straight up Rock and Roll posture but never really land anywhere near something solid. Near to the Wild Heart of Life is only eight tracks, likely nodding to other "punk" records" so it should be lean, fast and direct but it isn't. So much of the record feels like going through the motions. There are more than a few times where they have the start of an idea, but they often zig when they should have zagged. It is these little things that make this album miss, but make you also notice the things they really do well. Clearly not their best but it does give you hope that they can pull it back around eventually.
6.8 out of 10