Review: Japandroids Celebrate Rock at Neumos

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Vancouver B.C.’s Japandroids have been having a great month. Their second full length record, Celebration Rock, was released last week and has already been proclaimed one of the best rock records of the year by many media sources. So when the power-duo (this is a real thing) took the stage at Neumos on Monday night you would have forgiven them if they came across like big rock stars. 

The problem is, that’s just not who the Japandroids are. 

The Japandroids are Brian King on guitar and David Prowse on drums and they are, in many ways, just like you. They are big music fans – nerds if you will. If you have followed their story, or been lucky enough to catch them live in smaller venues you know that they are as down to earth as it gets. They are enjoying this ride instead of expecting it. 

Sonically King and Prowse harken back to loud and distorted bands from the early 90’s, but with a more contemporary indie feel to them. They don’t play grungy-style songs about depression and sadness, they prefer to play loud songs about trying to hold on to fleeting youth for dear life and enjoying the moment you’re in.

That may sound like a lot to experience on a Monday night at Neumos but the Japandroids accomplished everything they set out to do. King’s guitar was blistering all night, playing through a bass amp, two distorted Marshall stacks and two clean Fender stacks. This mix gives the impression that there are four or five guitarists banging and all night King was pushing the volume envelope as far as he was legally aloud to. He joked several times that he hoped the club didn’t get in trouble. 

Prowse is the perfect partner to King. Their chemistry on stage is palpable and it is hard to imagine that anyone in rock hits their drums as hard as he Prowse does. It’s a wonder he can finish shows with the effort he puts in. 

For such a stripped down ensemble they manage to make a good deal of beautiful noise. 

Both guys handle the vocals which consist of a lot of anthemic sing-alongs and ‘whoooas’. While they are not going to be hailed as great singers anytime soon, they are great vocalists and their voices are a perfect ingredient to the Japandroids mix. 

They played every track off the new record and mixed in some material from Post-Nothing throughout the night. As they record their albums with the live show in mind there is little distinction between record and stage. They had a couple of mini band meetings in between songs and King informed the crowd that they don’t use a set list, meaning that sometimes you have to figure out what song you are going to play next. All this adds to the feeling that the Japandroids are your peers and you’re hanging out in their basement. 

King played up on that feeling by relating a story about how the two of them drove down from Vancouver a month ago to see Hot Snakes at Neumos and was standing right where their fans were. He quipped “so don’t think we are any different than you, because we’re not.” He also related a story about how the Neumo’s crowd was the biggest Seattle crowd they’ve played in front of that wasn’t there to see some other band and that it was a “bigger moment than it appears.”

The Japandroids are a breath of fresh air in an indie rock world full of sad, acoustic plinking songs about lost love and forest animals. They are a rock band and they play the kind of music that makes you want to jump around the room and smash everything in sight – for all the right reasons. 

On their song ‘Younger us’ King sings “..remember thinking this feeling will never end?” We do Brian, we all felt it on a Monday night at Neumos.

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