Japandroids (JPNDRDS) is a two piece band from Vancouver, BC. This 'band' started in 2006 as a creative outlet for the post-teenage angst of Brian King and David Prowse. Originally intending to be a trio, the boys decided to forgo the logistical nightmare of having a 'lead singer' and do it themselves. As a consequence, Japandroids are one guitar, one set of drums, and two vocalizers. They call it garage rock. They don't care what you call it, as long as it's not minimal. Japandroids are maximal - a two piece band trying to sound like a five piece band.
Review by Jason Lymangrover
For their debut, Japandroids hit the ground running on Post-Nothing, a warm flurry of fuzzy guitar, disjointed crashing drums, and childlike vocals yelled in unison by guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse. Several seasons before the album was released, "Young Hearts Spark Fire" hit the blogosphere and earned the band enough praise to secure a spot on Polyvinyl. The buzz continued with quite a few comparisons to fellow lo-fi/ noise rockers No Age and Wavves, two of the hottest forerunners on the hipster art-punk scene. (Japanther is probably a closer comparison, due to their similar super-sized two-man sound and singing style, but then again, Japandroids aren't an easy band to pin down.) The lo-fi/noise rock tag is such a wide ranging term that it's a pretty loose fit. Think of it as a triple XL that the malnourished (metaphorically speaking) musicians can only wear if they wrap up in layers and layers of distortion. Behind the '90s shoegaze overdrive and underneath all the punk rock thrashing, Japandroids' songs are absolute pop in the truest sense. They're innocent, they're simple, and they're filled with blindingly good hooks. It's all thrown together with a superb sense of knowing what works. With all the fat trimmed, of the eight songs there isn't a bad track, making it difficult to choose a favorite, be it the sing-alongitude of "Wet Hair" and "Young Hearts Spark Fire," the nod to Thin Lizzy with "The Boys Are Leaving Town," the fantastic bashing of "Heart Sweats," or the heartfelt sincerity of "Crazy/ Forever." The lyrics aren't exactly thoughtful. Mainly, they're about girls and drinking, but they're delivered with such passion that they seem truly earnest, even when the line involves French-kissing French girls on Bikini Island. Just before the spring fever wears off and "Sovereignity" dissipates into the teeth-rattling power ballad closer, "I Quit Girls," the boys shine brightest as they shout, "It's raining in Vancouver/ but I don't give a fuck, because I'm alone with you tonight." It pretty much sums up the Japandroids code. They act apathetic, but they're totally sentimental. Likewise, they're musically proficient even though they're sloppy as hell.
Disliking teen-pop gets you cast as some sort of rockist Luddite these days, but beyond the fact that most of it doesn't sound like stuff I'd have wanted to hear as a high schooler, it doesn't feel like music for teens either. (Hell, it's more tween-pop than teen-pop anyway.) But what about the kind of stuff that, say, the "1979" video lionized-- breaking into your folks' liquor cabinet, obliterating the speed limit despite just getting your learner's permit, leaving your hometown for the first time and discovering how small it feels. What about jamming out with your best bud and deciding to call it a band?
These are the kind of gut-level concerns Post-Nothing trades in, and I know, on paper it describes an itch that a late-1990s Vagrant record could scratch. And combined with the fact that the band is called freakin' Japandroids, it's easy to not take it seriously. Which is fine, since Japandroids do not make particularly complex music: Brian King plays broad chords stewed in mid-90s fuzz (think Superchunk) while David Prowse splays spastic but never showy drum fills that beg to be pounded out on your steering wheel. There's maybe one overdub on the whole thing and occasionally, both of them yell at the same time. Several songs have less than five lines. And while they've been known to cover Mclusky's "To Hell With Good Intentions" live, what makes Post-Nothing such a blast is how Japandroids tend to embody the opposite sentiment of that song title. This is terminally catchy music played with punk's enthusiasm and velocity, and maybe it's the fact that there's only two dudes in this band that makes you feel like joining in to bash along. It's as fun as an ill-gotten sixpack and there really aren't too many bands doing stuff like this well anymore.
Recent trends, however, might make you think otherwise: Due to their two-man setup and no-frills recording, Japandroids risk being lumped into the increasingly tiresome no-fi/noise-pop scene that finds bands using distortion to tear through the fabric of the medium and, in some cases, drown out weak songs. Either way, there's some form of obfuscation, but what makes Post-Nothing such a thrill is the manner in which Japandroids hold absolutely nothing back. As contagious as any of the lyrics, melodies, riffs, or drum fills are, their energy and lack of self-consciousness is every bit as equally lovable. Opening mission statement "The Boys Are Leaving Town" could be seen as a goof on Thin Lizzy, but the response, "Will we find our way back home?", is delivered with such conviction that between those two lines, "Boys" displays a palpable desperation. Six tracks later, the question is still unresolved-- amidst the cyclical thrum of "Sovereignty", they observe: "It's raining, OH-OH! in Vancouver/ But I don't give a fuck/ 'Cause I'm far from home tonight."
So yeah, it's a record about distance. For the most part it's a record about the distance between themselves and girls. Too often, similar records find themselves lapsing into easy misogyny, and while "Heart Sweats" skirts the issue, the in-jokes are kinda duds. Nonetheless, its thick riff is a good introduction to the less excitable but still very exciting side B. "Crazy/Forever" is heaving stoner rock (think Black Mountain with hooks), and closer "I Quit Girls" is about as close to a power ballad as Japandroids will allow themselves. It's full of musical drama-- King reaches for falsetto amidst almost-synthetic guitar EQ'ing and it's the longest stretch of time with no drumming, but the whole thing is leavened by a tongue-in-cheek pledge of devotion from Rowse: "After her, I quit girls."
The distance is emotional as well as physical on "Wet Hair", and I'll be surprised if I play another song in 2009 as much as this one. Its structure is almost comically linear-- there's three lines in the whole thing, and the most ridiculous one gets repeated for nearly half of its three minutes, something about going to France to French kiss some French girls. There's hardly even a verse-chorus structure, just a single melody that repeats itself faster after the drums drop out. But it's one hell of a melody, and it's lyric, like much of Post-Nothing, doesn't need to be analyzed or even understood to be felt.
Where it all comes together best is "Young Hearts Spark Fire". Almost a flipside to LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends", it's thematically similar, trading wistful reminiscence for drunken defiance and pulsing electro for chaotic garage rock. The five minutes go by in a blur, and amidst the guitar heroics and cymbal-bashing, King lets his guard down on Post-Nothing's key line-- "We used to dream/ Now we worry about dying/ I don't want to worry about dying." It would be so easy to view this sort of musical and lyrical directness with suspicion, but "Young Hearts" is life-affirming stuff-- if only it affirms that, even in these times, life doesn't need to be as complicated as we tend to make it.
— Ian Cohen, April 27, 2009