Monday, May 4, 2009

Japandroids. Post-Nothing (Unfamiliar, 2009)

"She had wet hair/ Say what you will/ I don't care/ I couldn't resist it!"

The title of Post-Nothing, Vancouver duo Japandroids' debut LP, betrays a certain amount of impatience. Impatience with rock classifications, with post-rock and post-punk and post-hardcore; impatience with theories and overthought; impatience with patience. This is rock'n'fuggin' roll, after all, not math class or grad school. Let's hurry up and lighten up, plug in, and just play, man.

Which is just what Japandroids commence to do over the course of Post-Nothing's eight tracks and 35+ minutes, whipping a righteous racket of guitars and drums, injecting each tune with a sweaty, hoarse exuberance that belongs to the young and the young at heart. Brian King (guitar/vocals) and David Prowse (drums/vocals) keep things loud and simple, mining Superchunk, Guided by Voices, Chavez, My Bloody Valentine, and loads of untold hometown gararge heroes for blueprints and battleplans, cranking amps and punishing skins to create a direct, vital noise that's always aimed for the back of the room.

The guiding principle is intensity. King and Prowse play for the joy of playing, stoked simply to be recording their sounds for posterity, wide-open grins and breathless abandon as integral to the music as the instruments. Each blown out, distortion-drenched massive jam comes across as a rallying cry and a call to arms, a hooky entreaty to shout along at the top of your lungs. Lyrics revolve around youth, being young, and the drag of growing old, eternal themes warmed over awesomely. Smart melodies keep things from getting dumb, while the punishing volume and blistering beats save the project from being too cute. It's a fine line between clever and stupid, and Japandroids trace it.

Thin Lizzy prequel "The Boys Are Leaving" starts off like a Loveless demo before the drums roll in to give shape to the shimmer and roar, monster fills bleeding into the melodies to form an instinctively catchy anthem. "The boys are leaving town," shouts King before wondering desperately, "Will we find our way back home?" The track mixes wanderlust and reminiscence expertly, anticipation and loss duke-ing it out over twisted, burning chords.

"Young Hearts Spark Fire" is a timeless tune, the embodiment of juvenile elation and the sadness that comes with its eventual, inevitable loss. "Ohhhhhhh, we used to dream!" goes the chorus, "Now we worry about dying." Has there ever been a better middle finger to mortality than, "I don't wanna worry about dying/ I just wanna worry about sunshine and girls." It's "My Generation" for every generation, unburdened by boomer entitlement and other gross baggage. It's genius.

Throughout Post-Nothing, Japandroids return again and again to living in the present and letting the future take care of itself. Each song is a self-contained ode to wasting time and having a blast doing it, and the music underscores the point. The guitars buzz and crackle and blast, frantic strumming the backdrop for stun-ray acid surf solos, distortion hiding the cracks and flaws. "Wet Hair," with its exhortation to "French kiss some French girls," is a perfect distillation of the Japandroids' sound: simple changes played loud and fast, floor toms and kick drums and cymbals all elbowing their way into the mix, lyrics a hectic shout over the turbulence. "Rockers East Vancouver" stays tense and tight, opening up but never letting up, switching tempos to vary the abuse. "I Quit Girls" rides a wave of phase like the best early Pavement, a surprisingly beautiful dose of naive guitar delinquency shot through with trebly spikes and thorns.

Post-Nothing trades in simplicity and timelessness, its greatness grounded in a faith in extreme volume and hooks. This is honest music about being young and playing music, performed with an utter lack of self-consciousness or giving-a-shit. Japandroids just wanna rock you, and on Post-Nothing they succeed admirably. Plus, the cover of the album looks like the cover to Television's Marquee Moon, and they occasionally play the immortal McLusky's "To Hell With Good Intentions" during their live sets, both of which are totally worth a few points. It's like they're trying to be the best band ever.