As I rushed into the concourse of the Troxy, sweating and stressing, I let out a sigh of relief. I was here to see Japandroids and was running a couple of minutes late. I was worried I’d missed the first song and would have to waste two painstaking hours trying to find it online later that night. Yet the muffled sounds seeping through the walls did not sound like they could have belonged to the two-piece. It just sounded louder and fuller that I thought a single guitar and drum-kit could possibly make.
Of course, it was Japandroids. Over the next half hour I proceeded to learn that there is indeed a hell of a lot of noise that two musicians can make, especially when those musicians are Brian King and David Prowse. Their records have received lavish praise from all quarters for a raw and rousing rock uncommon in common bands. However I was sceptical as to whether the anthemic character of tracks such as “The Nights of Wine and Roses” and “The House that Heaven Built” would still exist in a live setting.
I needn’t have been. With a healthy infusion of all the ingredients that can make rock and punk sound so urgent; sweat, speed and hitting your instruments really hard, Japandroids demand the attention of everyone in the room, most of whom have come to see headliners The Gaslight Anthem but will probably leave talking about Japandroids.
While the sons of Springsteen, The Gaslight Anthem, capture the romance inherent within all great rock ‘n roll, Japandroids embody the rebellion. With lyrics such as “Hearts from hell collide, on fire’s highway tonight” and “When raw winds blew us down her city’s streets, she warmed my body with her city’s heat”, there is still an exuberant romantic quality to all their songs, yet Japandroids also sound as alcohol soaked as a Tom Waits record or a Bukowski novel. As the title of their hit record Celebration Rock suggests, Japandroids are as much about getting wrecked at a party than lamenting failed relationships in your bedroom.
Celebration Rock, which has catapulted Japandroids to Pitchfork blogosphere super fame, reached no.37 on the Billboard chart and has received near universal critical acclaim, is wonderfully written yet remains easily digestible. Just at 8 tracks long, Japandroids pack in all your memories of sweltering gigs, heavy drinking, suffocating cigarette smoke, your first girlfriend and youth into 35 minutes and the same can be said of their set at the Troxy last month.
The stage is stripped down and sparse; a mic stand, an amp, a guitar and a drum kit, yet Brian King and David Prowse still fill it. Both members are in constant motion, slamming through the chords with a stunning urgency that their music demands. Brian King, with his sleight frame, messy mop and rolled up sleeves looks a splitting image of Born to Run era-Springsteen. The Gaslight Anthem have undoubtedly drew the bulk of the crowd, many of whom see them as this generation’s answer to The Boss. Yet after Japandroids seized their attention, they might just have another alternative.