Japandroids (photo: Estefany Gonzalez)
A little over thirty minutes into their sold out show at The Fillmore, Vancouver-based rock duo Japandroids paused their energetic set to reminiscence with the audience.
“This song goes out to the Hemlock—does that place still exists?” Lead singer and guitarist Brian King asked and the crowd cheered, confirming that the Hemlock hasn’t yet fallen prey to gentrification. “Awesome, this song is called 'Younger Us' and it goes out to anyone at our early shows at the Hemlock.”
Almost all of Japandroids' discography traffics in simplistic, twenty-something, nostalgia, which makes “Younger Us” about as perfect of a track this Canadian duo will ever write. Despite sounding a little thin after weeks on tour (King was kind enough to apologize for the exhaustion in his voice and requested louder crowd sing-alongs), Japandroids tirelessly pushed “Younger Us” forward.
Carrying a room the size of The Fillmore is a tough ask for a two-piece band. And at times, you could see the weight on their shoulders—neither King nor drummer David Prowse are full-bodied vocalists. There was only one remedy: turn up the volume (the drums were particularly crushing), play for over ninety minutes, and hope for the best.
The pressure did seem to break some of the new songs. “North East South West,” a wannabe road trip anthem, plodded along with all the dullness of a 14 hour drive and none of the fun.
The closer to their new album Near To The Wild Heart Of Life, “In A Body Like A Grave” was cringe worthy on the big-stage; it’s hard to watch a grown man write lyrics like this, “School will deepen debt / Work will sap the soul / Hometown haunts what’s left / Love will scar the heart / Sun will burn the skin / Just the way it is / And way it’s always been.” Right, okay, got it.
But “Wet Hair” rocked. “The Nights of Wine and Roses” also played well on the big stage. When Japandroids get it right, it is infectious, this appeal to our base instinct. A few friends, a bottle of booze, and some Wille zum Leben, and one will inevitably feel better. Sometimes the hangover hits (most of the newer songs) and it’s generally a bit of a headache, but at least you’ve always got yesterday (and the older songs) about which to reminiscence.