Video: Japandroids - “The House That Heaven Built” (Official Music Video)
When the time comes to look back on Summer 2012, I know what the soundtrack to my nostalgic journey down memory lane will be. In all its self-aggrandizing guitar glory, “The House That Heaven Built” is the apex of Japandroids’ indomitably excellent Celebration Rock — the point at which the celebration turns into something truly transcendent. It’s appropriate, then, that the song receive the music video treatment.
Visually, the “House” clip delivers exactly what the song itself conveys musically. It’s huge, with sweeping, beautiful black and white footage, but there’s also a scrappy, DIY quality to it, as indicated by the occasional hand-held camera shots. It fantasizes and alludes to a larger than life existence, and yet it still feels intensely personal. Shots of band members Brian King and David Prowse partying, drinking, and playing shows are spliced with footage of them reading, driving around, and hanging out with friends in more intimate settings. From Celebration Rock, it’s clear that Japandroids embrace the rock star lifestyle, and although this video finds them reveling in its trappings, it also suggests that they haven’t lost their way as real, relatable people too. They are on track to becoming the everyman’s indie rock band, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Watch the video for “The House That Heaven Built” above and read my review of Celebration Rock HERE.
Japandroids - Celebration Rock (2012)
I’ve purposefully avoided reviewing this album for some time now. When it leaked back in April, I felt a fervent desire to review it immediately. I’ve felt passionate about this record ever since I first heard it, and that passion has not diminished in the month since that first listen. Although I immediately wanted to get my thoughts about it out onto my blog and into the world, I knew it was not yet time. I was still in school, and even by the end of April, I still had five weeks of APs, SATs, final exams, and other standardized tests looming ahead of me. I wasn’t free yet, and I knew that the time for wild escapism — the kind that this album incites and encourages — was still ahead.
Well, a month has passed, and I still haven’t finished all of the work that my education requires me to complete, but I can’t take it any longer. It’s been nagging at my conscience for too long. This album begs to be written about, and absolutely needs to be heard.
At face value, Celebration Rock, the new album by the Vancouver punk duo Japandroids, is a summer record. It demands to be played at the beach, on your front porch at sunset, or in a car as you drive into the sun with your three best friends. Throughout the record, frontman Brian King crafts lush, escapist images that evoke these settings while retaining a feeling of urgency at all times. “Hearts from hell collide on Fire’s Highway tonight,” King shouts on “Fire’s Highway,” and for the duration of the song, you feel like you’re there, even though neither you nor I have much of a clue as to what a “fire’s highway” is in the first place. Similarly, on the song-of-the-year contender “The House That Heaven Built,” King describes coming upon “a house built of living light / where everything evil disappears and dies.” The beauty of Japandroids’ music is that they actually manage to sell these half ridiculous/wholly sincere lyrics with as much grit, glamor, and guitar riffage as they can muster.
But Celebration Rock does not concern itself solely with escaping the realities of life. Unlike the Post-Nothing standout “Young Hearts Spark Fire”, on which King radically declared, “I don’t want to worry about dying / I just want to worry about those sunshine girls,” this record actively yearns for meaning from the very beginning. “Long lit up tonight, and still drinking,” King admits on the opening track, “Don’t we have anything to live for?” Ironically, by conveying this desire for existential significance in such an immediate, accessible, and lovable manner, Japandroids have actually created profound meaning with this record and effectively answered their own question.
For me anyway, Celebration Rock is a reason to live in and of itself, but I’m not sure if the band is quite so easily persuaded. ”Still waiting for a generation’s bonfire to begin,” King sings impatiently on “Adrenaline Nightshift.” With Celebration Rock, he and drummer David Prowse seem intent on lighting that fire, even if it means getting burned. Indeed, Celebration Rock bears numerous lyrical references to fire, both as a symbol for love and for the energy of life — energy which, the band acknowledges, could die out at any moment. In order to keep it alive, the band turns the amps up and rocks out with unrivaled intensity, resulting in six of 2012’s most urgent punk rock anthems.
“The Nights Of Wine And Roses” opens with fireworks and builds with a steady floor tom beat before exploding into a blaze of distorted guitar. From then on through the next six tracks, the energy never lets up. “Evil’s Sway” overlays guitar feedback with monstrous riffs and drum fills punctuated by brief “Oh yeah, oh yeah!s” from Prowse. Similarly cathartic shout/sung choruses pop up on nearly every track, with particularly strong effect on “Adrenaline Nightshift”, “The House That Heaven Built,” and “Younger Us.” In context, the inclusion of “Younger Us,” which was released as a single back in 2010, feels like a victory lap around the record, indicating not only how far they’ve come as a band since then, but how great they’ve always been in the first place.
By the record’s end, the band does eventually approach the uncomfortable subject of what would happen when the “fire” dies out. On the tender album closer “Continuous Thunder,” King assures the listener that his sincerity extends not only to his comrades and friends, but to a lover as well. “If I had all the answers and you had the body you wanted,” he sings, “Would we love with a legendary fire?” To King, as to us, the answer to that question is less important than what comes after — “And if the cold, pissing rain flooded that fire, would you still take my hand tonight?” All I can say is that I hope she would. With this album, he’s earned it. They both have.
Celebration Rock is not just an album that would sound great soundtracking your next party; it is a sincere, thoroughly realized exultation of the glory of rock music itself. From the wordless rallying calls that permeate nearly every track, to the starry-eyed lyrics and even the cover of The Gun Club’s “For The Love Of Ivy,” Celebration Rock is truly a celebration of the myth-laced history of rock music, and one that has earned a place in the books by its own rite.
When asked about the album’s relatively short tracklist by Rolling Stone, frontman Brian King rattled off a series of records which, like Celebration Rock, feature only eight songs, including Led Zeppelin IV, The Stooges’ Raw Power, and Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen. It was only an offhand comment on King’s part, but I can’t help but think about those ‘classic’ records whenever I listen to Celebration Rock now. Of course, I still fucking love Born To Run, but I’d take this over a Led Zeppelin record any day.
Celebration Rock is out tomorrow on Polyvinyl Records. It is available for pre-order now from the Polyvinyl website.