Album Review: Japandroids - Near to the Wild Heart of Life

Words by Daniel Rourke

It's been almost five years since Japandroids graced us with the anthemic 'Celebration Rock'. In those five years the band toured the world relentlessly, only to crash and burn in 2014. During the bands downtime they began work on their eagerly anticipated third album, 'Near to the Wild Heart of Life.'

Title track and comeback Near to the Wild Heart of Life opens up proceedings by launching straight back into the raucous romps that are expected from the duo. Straight from David Prowse's opening drum fill it becomes abundantly clear that the next eight tracks are set to be a wild ride.

The record is said to be made up of several acts, the first being tracks one through four. It's a notion that sounds rather pretentious, but becomes evident in North East South West. Whilst the title may suggest the duo have been reading the same book Kanye West used to name his children, the song itself develops into a love letter to Canada. It's here where it becomes clear that as well as the typical escapades into love, the band are looking more towards their roots.

True Love And A Free Life Of Free Will and I'm Sorry (For Not Finding You Sooner) round off the first act of the record, whilst proving the depth of Japandroids in the process. Whether it's the explosive nature of Near to the Wild Heart of Life, or the reserved, somewhat dower tones of I'm Sorry, the band excel at everything the first act has to offer.

Despite the excellence of the first act, it's in the opening of the second that things start to become interesting. Arc of Bars lures you into a seven minute spiral of synthetic sounds that sees frontman Brian King depicting a sprawling tale. It's then followed by the simplistically superlative Midnight To Morning.

The second act develops on themes found in the first, as King sings: "Bring me back home to you" in Midnight To Morning, before wailing: "No known drink or no known drug / could ever hold a candle to your love" in act closer, No Known Drink Or Drug. Whilst it's not really anything new, the use of acts and the loose narratives they create works rather well, and adds something extra to an already enticing record.

Of course no good narrative is complete without an epilogue, and in steps In A Body Like A Grave to be just that. Perhaps the most influential track on the record, In A Body Like A Grave looks to wrap up the loose narrative sprawls, as most of the themes tackled on the record are crammed into the fetching final track.

Following 'Celebration Rock' was always going to be a difficult task for Japandroids, the critical acclaim plus the five year wait was only ever going to create more and more hype. Thankfully, King and Prowse have pulled it out of the bag with 'Near to the Wild Heart of Life', and produced an early contender for album of the year. It's safe to say these certainly are the droids you were looking for.