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Japandroids spurred me in and out of higher education

“Celebration Rock” held me over until “Near to the Wild Heart of Life.”   |   Courtesy of consequenceofsound.com

 

I had little idea what awaited me when I applied to Biola four years ago, and I only found myself further in the dark once I got accepted. In this realm of uncertainty, my best friend Chad Timblin introduced me to the anthemic punk rock duo called Japandroids. Their 2012 sophomore album, “Celebration Rock,” released in the midst of my final year of high school. I soon found myself listening to the album every day.

bodaciously jubilant beckoning

Each track on the album gushed youthful abandon in its purest form. The bodaciously jubilant “Fire’s Highway” beckoned to my adolescent heart with empowering lyrics and victorious aura, while the simple romantic musings of “Younger Us” gave me lasting joy in a fleeting context. This transcendent zest for life unifies the record as a powerful statement of positivity.

The lyrics of guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse spoke hope into my life, while their combined musical energy provided one of the most exhilarating concert experiences of my life when I saw them during the summer of 2013. After extensively touring in support of “Celebration Rock,” Japandroids fell off the map — with no releases and hardly any live appearances — leaving me with their songs for the next four years.

My time at Biola saw me explore many avenues in life, whether it be through various music scenes, job opportunities or from switching my major from music to English before finding the journalism department. I would occasionally return to “Celebration Rock” for moral support when life started to feel darker, but found myself drifting farther away from that ray of sunshine as the mysterious prospect of life after graduation became more real. Within weeks of starting my last semester of classes, Japandroids released their comeback album “Near to the Wild Heart of Life.”

pre-college spirit

The moment I heard the opening title track, my heart leapt for joy. Japandroids still relish in fervor, but they had matured alongside me. They now presented music I could relate to on the same level I could back in 2012 with “Celebration Rock.” Their sound had become less frenetic and boisterous, but no less bound to audio ecstasy. In general, this album took a mid-tempo approach. Their signature simplistic intensity remains — as exemplified by the duo's instrumentation still largely revolving around guitar and drums — but tracks like “True Love And A Free Life Of Free Will” utilize half-time tom-tom grooves instead of mosh pit-starting punk beats.

The almost eight-minute cut “Arc Of Bar’s” use of synth arpeggios and droning guitar strains might seem worlds away from their previous material, but they still retain the catchy “whoas” and “yeahs” that make so much of their back catalog so compellingly cheesy. Japandroids’ musical identity remains intact, but added nuance and and intelligent songwriting speaks to me on a level I understand as a senior in college rather than a senior in highschool.

Japandroids encouraged my pre-college spirit with these lyrics from “The House That Heaven Built” — “And if they try to slow you down, tell them all to go to hell” — but they now resonate with my current outlook with “North East South West” — “Flayed and gutted, so I've got to go back home, hungry for a hand to hold.”

Music fans often talk about how an album changed or saved their life, but Japandroids seemed to live life alongside me as they released two records exactly when I needed them most. Listening to “Near to the Wild Heart of Life” felt like reuniting with an two old friends after weathering life’s trials and tribulations separately, and I am eternally grateful for their positivity in a world often seeming saturated in the negative.

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