I turned 39 just the other day and being less than a year from 40 has triggered serious contemplation of the ageing process. Who knows, it might even be a full blown midlife crisis.
I’m starting with that by way of apology to Japandroids who are very possibly bearing the brunt of this crisis. As I don’t know them, and the rumbustious Canadian two-piece have nothing whatsoever to do with my inescapable march towards destruction and death, I do realise this is a trifle unfair. But hey, them’s the breaks guys…
Looking around Facebook at what old school friends get up to, it’s obvious not many of them pay attention to modern music in the manner that they used to. That’s normal I guess, but I’ve never fully understood why it’s not considered ‘weird’ to keep up with the latest movies and TV shows, but it’s different when it comes to what I’ll broadly refer to as ‘pop music’?
I suppose it’s that our culture considers pop to be a young man/woman’s game, but I’ve never seen it that way. As a longtime fan of Tom Waits (a man who lowered his voice when he was young in order to sound older) and Leonard Cohen (a man who released his debut album aged 33) I guess I just have a different take on it.
Nearly five years have passed since Japandroids previous album, the wonderful Celebration Rock, a record which mixed punk and classic rock influences in a thrilling and emotional manner. I’ve invested a lot in Near to the Wild Heart of Life being another album that makes me feel young again in the way the previous one did. It doesn’t. And ultimately I have to admit this disappoints me.
I can even measure the disappointment I feel about this new album in physical terms, because while Celebration Rock‘s opening track ‘The Nights of Wine and Roses’ sends shivers up and down my spine every single time I listen to it, nothing on this new album does. It’s too smooth, too mature, the classic element of ‘classic rock’ is now far too emphasized, whereas it used to be the rock element.
The songs are fine, the melodies and production are fine, the seven minute long ‘Arc of Bar’ has admirable epic qualities, but there’s none of the edge that you want from a great rock ‘n’ roll album. It’s too safe.
Sadly, it feels like the thrill is gone and now I feel really old. I’m off to have a Horlicks. 2/5