Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Album of the Year: A Generation's Bonfire

Celebration Rock, the sophomore outing from the two-man group known as Japandroids, dares to condone things seemingly long forgotten by our culture: doing stuff that ain’t good for you, and flipping off anyone who raises an eyebrow.

Long lit up tonight and still drinking, / Don’t we have anything to live for? /
Well of course we do, but until it comes true / We’re drinking

Their message to this generation of coddled and overprotected youth is not one of nihilism but a call to live their lives by learning the only way we ultimately can: by doing. It is a 35-minute call to arms for the coveted 15-30 demographic to get off their asses and take ownership of their own fate.

We are in a musical era filled with the lyrics-by-numbers of One Direction and the autotuned synths of endless R&B/hip-pop acts. Those rare bands and musicians not obsessed with getting laid, falling in love, or recovering from a break-up tend to fall into a category apparently known as “Nu-Folk” or New Folk, depending on what side of the pond you’re on. For all of my love of this sound -- from Frightened Rabbit and Admiral Fallow to the Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons -- it is not the music of reckless abandon or youthful intensity.

Wildness is our treasure / so boldly surrender / to me and to the night

In a year of mostly harmless, mostly acoustic- or synth-driven, often contemplative rock music, the Japandroids released something urgent and primal. It dares to attempt what was once the sole purpose of rock: the celebration of impulses, the war of our dark and decent urges, the siren call of desires in our youthful skulls.

Hitchhiked to hell and back / riding the wind / Waiting for a generation’s bonfire to begin
When the plunder of the poets, / thunder of a punk’s guitar
Beat life to my body / sulking drunk at the back of a bar

With only eight songs, Celebration Rock is what they call “muscular” and “lean.” Such a short album demands to be respected as a collection, demands to be given no passes for moments of crap. The only less-than-mindblowing song on the entire collection comes with their cover of Gun Club’s “For The Love of Ivy.”

The lyrics won’t have Keats writhing in jealousy from his grave, but they do pack weight in their words. In "Younger Us" they describe almost every college-aged memory I still cherish:

Remember saying things like ‘we’ll sleep when we’re dead’
And thinking this feeling was never gonna end
Remember that night you were already in bed
said ‘fuck it’ got up to drink with me instead

This band knows me. That’s what it feels like when listening to them. It feels like they’ve been watching my entire life play out on some DVR in their mystical living room. Of course that's silly. But I know I'm not alone. Lots of people hear this album and feel a part of them has been captured. And when a band can tap into that many spines, they've done something magical.

Get up and go out and live your f*#king life. Make a bunch of stupid mistakes. And risk screwing up not because nothing matters; risk it because that’s how we grow up. Muscles can’t build up if they don’t first break down, and neither can people.

"The headphone jack is now...
on the bottom! Mind... blown."
The album’s concluding song, “Continuous Thunder” offers an observation that, every time I hear it, I do that little mind-blowing pantomime from the Samsung commercial, because in a few lines he describes everything wrong with our romantic ideals and everything that kills relationships:

If I had all of the answers / and you had the body you wanted /
would we love with a legendary fire?
And if the cold, pissing rain flooded that fire / Would you still take my hand tonight?

Silly people, he's saying. Love between two souls isn't bettered by personal perfection. Love is only strengthened through the willpower and determination to keep holding hands through fire and through rain. Love is about "no matter what." Such is not the sentiment of nihilistic youth, but of someone who has seen fire, who has seen rain, and who believes we've shielded our youth, ourselves, from the weather for far too long.

Other Top Albums of 2012:
Silver Age - Bob Mould
Red - Taylor Swift
Battle Born - The Killers
Handwritten - The Gaslight Anthem
Some Nights - fun.

Tree Bursts In Snow - Admiral Fallow

1 comment:

Hank said...

My favorite Japandroids lyric is from their first album:

"We used to dream, now we worry about dying"