In a November interview with Pitchfork, Japandroid’s frontman Brian King said, “We’re removing all the self-imposed rules that led to the songs and the sound of our whole career up until now.” The Victoria, BC, rock band has narrowed focus for their new project Near to The Heart of The Wild. Their new focus is something that is mature enough to hold listeners with lyrical content alone.
From the opening track, “Near to The Heart of The Wild,” Japandroids take you on a new adventure, through a more personal, intimate story. “The futures under fire, the past is gaining ground,” yells King 49-seconds into that beginning song. The line represents the journey Japandroids is on, the hype, the release of their last studio success Celebration Rock, the long wait, and now the release of Near to The Heart of The Wild, after three years of silence.
The album is exactly what you would expect from a Japandroids record, with David Prowse’s punchy drums that battle through a mist of King’s noisy guitars and half yelled vocals. The album brings the listener back. Back to when they first heard Celebration Rock, but the more intimate lyrics feel like a warm hug on a cold day, much like the late January release date.
Like Celebration Rock, Near to The Heart of The Wild has a theme. The duo is in steady relationships at this point, and it is heard in the solid and mature lyrics. Songs like “Know No Drink or Drug” show the evolution of the group. Lyrics like “and we’re still smoking, don’t we have anything to live for,” from “The Night of Wine and Roses” is replaced with “no known drug, could hold a candle to your love.”
In the final song, “In A Body Like a Grave,” Japandroids gives the listener a sweet “good-bye for now,” pushing the message of live your own life in the moment.
In more ways than one, this album is the story of Japandroids. The group starts the album as if they never left for three years, not missing a beat from the first second by using the noisy, garage rock guitar found in all their other work. In the song, “North East South West,” Japandroids yell about their experience with their heavy world tour back in 2013 and present a small anecdote about each city.
The conclusion has the duo aing about putting their party lifestyles behind them. Japandriods seem to be in peace with their current life. The band took a risk, and it worked out. Dropping their self-imposed rules created the fun-to-play life record they were looking for.