by Joshua Robbins
Maybe we live in a post-Japandroids world. When we saw our last Japandroids album, it was 2012 and one could argue that North America had recovered enough after the great recession to go back into existential mode. Obama was beginning his second term and for most 20-something Americans, life was starting to be good again. The bold proclamations sculpted in Celebration Rock, seemed to mirror a bold way of life, an idea of taking to the highways and getting away, an indie-rock answer to Springsteen’s Born to Run.
The difference now is that Near to the Wild Heart of Life, feels like an album that was written during the 4-year absence, about that period, and now we live in a post-Brexit world with the fears and realities of a Trump presidency. As I listen to lyrics like, “she got me all fired up, to go far away,” I think about how the internalization and a focus on one’s self is what got us to this point. The rugged individuality that used to inspire us now just rings out like a horror story of modern America.
We live in a post-Japandroids world because in their absence, we’ve also musically accepted substitutes. The real issue with the album is that the big bold statements and open songwriting that used to feel so earnest, just feel like something we’ve been sold a million times. Unfortunately it’s a road that Japandroids paved themselves, and now they don’t feel as welcome in their own path. Similarly, as Americans, and I’d like to include Canadians, we too live in a world where we no longer feel welcome in our space. No longer can we be content with tiny homes and being “live off the grid chic.” We now know that our detachment over the past few years has somewhat led us to the current state.
If you’ve made it this far, you might think I hated this album, but that couldn't be further from the truth. I love it in the same way I love listening to old rock records that seem placed in a time that is not our own. Near to the Wild Heart of Life, makes me pine for 2012, which seems like a lifetime ago. The world changed overnight and this album is a document of how we used to live and how we used to think. Production-wise, this is the strongest Japandroids album to date and I think the band takes some of the biggest chances they ever have. This pays off in a very listenable album that continues to cement them as one of the most important indie rock bands of this era. I implore a band like Japandroids to keep making new albums and please keep reminding us that we will finally get back to a place where we can focus on just us and not what this current administration is doing to the world.