In March of this year I was lucky enough to photograph the Japandroids and Craig Finn in Seattle on Saturday, March 18th at the Neptune Theater. It was a sold out show with no barricade for the photographers to be in front of, so things definitely got rowdy when the Japandroids started. You’ll find the gallery below.
“It’s a lifeless life, with no fixed address to give/But you’re not mine to die for anymore/So I must live.” On the list of the best lyrics of the decade so far, that one—the most climactic line from the Japandroids’ blistering, cathartic “The House That Heaven Built”—has to be near the top. To me, that line has always been a beautifully apt statement about growing up and moving on. I suppose you could read it as a lyric about a break up, but I prefer to see it as a vow to let go of the things that used to define your life and build new ones in their place.
In a way, that’s exactly what Japandroids are doing on Near to the Wild Heart of Life, their third full-length album and their first in nearly five years. Their last record, 2012’s Celebration Rock, was more appropriately titled than any other album released in the past seven years. Beginning and ending with fireworks, the album raged with pounding guitars, blitzkrieg drums, and shout-along choruses that could put anyone in a party mood. It was an album about being young, staying up all night, making memories with friends, and drinking way more than could feasibly be deemed “necessary.”
Japandroids make music that should, theoretically, be relatively easy to produce more than once or twice per decade. And yet, when you make a record as good at being simple as Celebration Rock is, it doesn’t leave you with a lot of options moving forward. If you repeat the formula, you have to compete directly with your most beloved record (and your audience’s distorted memory of that record). If you change up the formula (assuming you’re even capable of doing that), you run the risk of losing what people liked about you in the first place.