Fans of Japandroids probably know the story all too well — in fact, it seems like their story might even be more widely circulated than their music. The Canadian duo, after years of performing at small venues, decided to give up on their dreams. They decided that, after all of the blood/sweat/tears, enough was enough. The two created their first full-length album, Post-Nothing, and launched a farewell tour of sorts — one last hoorah before calling it quits. It was no doubt because of this urgency, this go-for-broke energy, that the album turned out to be a hit (at least as far as indie-music goes). The album gave the band the attention and the success that it needed to continue. In 2012, the band released their follow-up, Celebration Rock, but it was unclear how the band would try to follow up their one-time farewell-note.
Celebration Rock is one of the most apt titles ever for an album. The record is 8 tracks of joy, energy, and nostalgia — it’s a remembrance and celebration of youth well spent and misspent. Staying up until 3AM talking with friends, driving semi-buzzed down lonely highways, these are the images that Japandroids conjure in their music and lyrics. The album starts off with the sound of fireworks popping in the distance, and after its running time, the album concludes in the same fashion. This final song, “Continuous Thunder,” is different though, in tone, style, and timbre: the percussion isn’t going off the rails, the guitar (while fuzzy and distorted) is more concern with creating texture than it is chugging out riffs, and vocalist Brian King is singing is heartfelt, but it’s not as urgent as the previous 7 tracks. All of the ingredients are there, but they add up to something completely different.
“Continuous Thunder” is just as nostalgic as anything else on the album, but there’s a sense that the song isn’t just about a love gone past — it’s about two people, in love, remembering their past together. The lyrics, within the first verse, summarize not only the song, but the entire album.
heart’s terrain is never a prairie
but you weren’t wary
you took my hand
through the cold, pissing rain
dressed to the nines
arm in arm with me tonight
singing out loud
yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah….
The two people here have planned a night together, and though the plans don’t necessarily go well, they make the best of it. It’s not unlike the kids that were forced out of the bar in earlier songs. This couple doesn’t care that it’s raining — they’re just happy to be together. This song has all the same love-of-life imagery that Celebration Rock carves out, and it further expands the idea by showing that all that you really need in life is your other half. But does that make this song purely romantic? Not necessarily. King goes on to wonder how things would be if he had all the answers and his partner had the body she wanted — would their love burn brighter? Here again, King is acknowledging the imperfection of youth, and through the entire album, this is never taken as a strike against the fact. The imperfection is what drives it: what makes it beautiful.
The album ends the same as it begins: with the popping of fireworks in the distance. Only this time, the imagery is transformed and recontextualized — instead of kids partying and setting off fireworks, the celebration is for the beginning of two people, the beginning of a couple, and a turning point for both of their lives. As the sound of percussion gives way to this sound, it’s hard not to imagine two lovers standing beneath the explosions in the sky. While it’s easy for nostalgia to be an easy acknowledgment of things we once loved, it also gives us the opportunity to look back and fall in love all over again now that we’ve come as far as we have.