Is this what a grown up version of Japandroids sounds like?
On Near to the Wild Heart of Life, the Canadian rock duo lose a little bit of the grit and urgency that made 2009’s Post-Nothing and 2012’s Celebration Rock essential listening for fans of classic rock-tinged punk and garage anthems. The woah-oh’s, cathartic choruses and thundering drums are still there, but this time around, the presence of acoustic guitars (“True Love and a Life of Free Will”) and the washed out, distorted vocals on “I’m Sorry (For Not Finding You Sooner)” broaden the band’s sonic palate in new ways. Near to the Wild Heart of Life feels a lot like a slightly more restrained version of Japandroids, but one that’s still grappling with relationships, alcohol and figuring out where home really is.
Newfound restraint aside, there are still echoes of Japandroids’ past, particularly on “Near to the Wild Heart of Life”, “North East South West” and “No Known Drink or Drug”; songs that feature the wild choruses and distorted power chords that made Japandroids such a compelling listen. The major difference is that now, in 2017, we get to hear those Japandroids’ songs alongside love songs (“True Love and a Life of Free Will”), and a 7 minute opus that’s anchored by a synth line (“Arc of Bar”).
On Near to the Wild Heart of Life, Japandroids successfully navigate that fine line between sounding exactly like their best work, while bringing enough experimentation to the table to keep things sounding fresh. This version of Japandroids was definitely worth the (long) wait.