Album Review: Japandroids suck the marrow from the Wild Heart of Life

Japandroids, Near to the Wild Heart of Life

It has been three years since Japandroids’ released their last album, Post Nothings, an anthemic punk rock record that put them on the map. Typically, bands attempt to capitalize on their newfound fame by releasing another album immediately afterward, but Japandroids did the opposite. They hid away for three years without a peep as to when the next album would be coming. Well, Near To The Wild Heart Of Life is here and holy shit it’s incredible.

A Portrait of the Artist
as a Young Man

“He was alone. He was unheeded, happy, and near to the wild heart of life. He was alone and young and willful and wildhearted, alone amid a waste of wild air and brackish waters and the sea harvest of shells and tangle and veiled grey sunlight.”
— James Joyce

The album draws from literary references like Joyce (see sidebar) and, according to singer Brian King, Clarice Lispector: “While reading Near To The Wild Heart by Clarice Lispector, I was inspired to try and write a song that mimicked both the style and structure of the novel, somehow hoping to retain what I could of the tone and themes, while at the same time incorporating my own ideas and experiences.”

On the title track King sings about his move from Vancouver to Toronto, but also his move from idealist to someone that chases his dreams: “You can’t condemn your love to linger here and die/ Can’t leave your dreams to chance/ Or to a spirit in the sky.” That sense of desperation is palpable in King’s voice and the sheer ferocity with which David Prowse hits the drums. Like Miles Teller in Whiplash, it always grows faster and faster.

“Arc of Bar” is the longest song on the album, clocking in at 7 minutes, 25 seconds and is by far their most ambitious. It sounds like something Rush would do more than any Canadian punk band, but that’s just a small sample of the evolution. Japandroids aren’t merely a punk band anymore. Only one song, “I’m Sorry (For Not Finding You Sooner),” comes in under 3 minutes. So, the punk ethic of blitzkrieging your way through a song is not apt here.

There’s something very Born to Run about Near to the Wild Heart. An album about chasing dreams, leaving home and love. It’s about exploration of self and the world. Nowhere on the album is that more prevalent than on “North East South West.” There’s an urgency to it that again touches on the theme of chasing one’s dreams while touring across the United States:

“Coast of California, the highway high/ Noise, narcotics, and the New York night/ An unshaven shaman shaking down the day/ And all matter of madness standing in my way.”

The writing has become more introspective and after three years away, King shows clearly what’s been going on in his head. Though the themes of love and exploration are prevalent, they do not at all take away from the energy. There is still an edge to this record.

Japandroids have awoken from their slumber to craft the finest album of their career, and undoubtedly the finest album of this new year. Near to the Wild Heart is a masterpiece in its brevity and manic energy. This album is destined to be a punk rock classic.

Near To The Wild Heart Of Life is scheduled for official release on Jan. 27, but is already streaming.

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