Japandroids - No Singles - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Japandroids - No Singles

by Pete Sykes Rating:9 Release Date:2010-05-10

Post-Nothing, the first album from this pair of Vancouver noise-rockers, was one of the highlights of last year. Loud, sweaty and exuberant, its songs were playful and chaotic - full of random shrieks and butch power chords, yet also touchingly vulnerable and plaintive. No Singles is, as the press material emphatically states, "NOT their sophomore album" but a collection of the band's first two, self-released EPs, 2007's All Lies and 2008's Lullaby Death Jams. What's surprising is that it finds a band not in the early stages of development, or unsure of themselves, but one with a fully-formed aesthetic and a self-confidence apparent in the combination of fun and fragility that would make Post-Nothing such a brilliant, refreshing record.

In blatant disregard for chronology, Lullaby Death Jams makes up the first half of No Singles, which means that the record kicks off with 'Darkness on the Edge of Gastown', a work familiar to anyone who's seen the band live. A screamed, barely coherent "1, 2, 3, 4!" gives way to an insistent, repeated power chord. As guitarist Brian King unburdens himself in the foreground ("Tell her that her future is bleak/Tell her that I'm the future"), the background features a cacophony of crashing cymbals, feedback and whoops, and the effect is stunning. It's a bleak song, save for a vague note of (appropriately Springsteen-esque) world-weary hope at the end ("Tell her I'm still in love/Tell her to come pick me up/Tell her I'm downtown/In the darkness at the edge of Gastown.") Brighter is 'No Allegiance to the Queen', which opens with a ragged sing-song and features much warmer, fuzzier guitar chords, of the kind that made 'Young Hearts Speak Fire' such a beauty. Elsewhere, things are similarly playful. 'Sexual Aerosol' is an ersatz romp; 'Lovers/Strangers', the shortest tune here at barely two-an- a-half minutes, is a riotous punk pastiche; 'Couture Suicide', the lead track from All Lies, is a tongue-in-cheek meditation on, in King's demented yelp, "Runway chic!" It sounds like Fugazi, with lyrics by Gok Wan.

Even when Japandroids are being dark - as on the ridiculous but entertaining seven-minute opus 'Lucifer's Symphony' - they can bring a smile to your face. The penultimate track, a blistering cover of Mcluskey's 'To Hell With Good Intentions' ("We take more drugs than a touring funk band"), provides the icing on this messy but delicious cake, before closer 'Press Corps' brings the record to a cathartic, blissful end. While No Singles has no one track as resonant as 'Young Hearts Spark Fire' or 'Wet Hair', it boasts some delightful songs and, crucially, the same raw, almost primal crashes of drums and guitar which made Post-Nothing so exhilerating - confirming that that record was no flash in the pan. Japandroids are truly a band to treasure, and their sophomore album, when it does arrive, should show that they have staying power and substance as well as an artful lack of style.

Pete Sykes

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