Review: Punkers Japandroids Reveal Their Classic Rock Side on Third LP

Our take on 'Near to the Wild Heart of Life,' the latest from the Vancouver rockers.

'Near to the Wild Heart of Life' is the third album from Vancouver's Japandroids. Credit: Camilo Christen

Even when they were screaming Vancouver scrappers recording songs like "Darkness at the Edge of Gastown," you knew there was a classic rock act at the punk heart of Japandroids. On their third LP, that band is out of the closet. "It got me all fired up, to go far away/And make some ears ring from the sound of my singing, baby!" hollers Brian King on the title track. The song's about a kid leaving behind his small-ass town for big-ass dreams, and when the voices harmonize on the "whoa-oh!"s, thick with top-shelf reverb, you hear every cheeseball Eighties pop-metal chorus chant in history distilled and vindicated. It's awesome.

Drummer David Prowse still plays like Keith Moon weaned on the Ramones, with stoic muscle-beats full of sprints and lunges. Part of the thrill here is how King's constructs teeter at cliché's brink; see "North East South West,' with its cheer-trolling regional shout-outs, or "Midnight to Morning," with its shopworn road-hog catalog: the bottle, the devil, the highway lines, the way home. Yet, with guitars soaring and grooves accelerating, the words feel undeniable, and you know that when you hear 'em in a club – or theater, or arena – you'll be bouncing off the walls, shouting every word.