Japandroids: No Singles

[31 August 2010]

By Ben Schumer

The Japandroids’ debut LP, Post-Nothing, endeared itself to me and, presumably, many other fans with its brazen love lust and ragged earnestness. Well, that coupled with an eight-pack of slash-and-burn SST punk abundant with melody and hooks. Lyrics like “We used to dream / Now we worry about dying / I don’t wanna worry about dying / I just worry those sunshine girls” and “We run the gauntlet / Let’s go to France / So we can French-kiss some French girls” are mission statements that we all happily scrambled to get behind. The Japandroids exhibited an honest-to-god lust for life, and made it clear that irony and cynicism are not native to Vancouver.

Unfortunately, all of the above attributes are in short supply on No Singles, a reissue/compilation of the two EPs that the band released prior to Post-NothingAll Lies and Lullaby Death Jams. The band shows plenty of promise on these teeth-cutting EPs, but there’s nothing present that would lead listeners to believe the Japandroids were capable of the heights reached on Post-Nothing. Most of all, the band’s pile-driving hooks just aren’t there.

In the win column: the Zen Arcade-channeling, metallic crunch of Brian King’s guitar, which has always been one of the band’s biggest selling points. Also: David Prowse’s jackhammer drum fills. I know this may not sound like much, but even on their weakest tracks, the band still provides a joyous, visceral rush. That said, a couple of songs are a genuine chore to get through. The plodding “Lucifer’s Symphony” does itself exactly zero favors by dragging on for seven minutes. Their flailing cover of Mclusky’s “To Hell With Good Intentions”, with its awkward, falsetto bleating, seems like little more than a drunken goof recorded on the fly.

If you’re looking for standout tracks, “Sexual Aerosol” comes closest to the caliber and fist-pumping swagger of Post-Nothing, but the majority of No Singles falls under the admittedly lazy umbrella of “b-side material”. Ultimately, this all feels a bit irrelevant because we know the story has a happy ending: the Japandroids released their phenomenal debut LP, Post-Nothing and will, more than likely, continue kicking ass and taking names. No Singles is the Japandroid’s origin story. It is filled with the stumbles, growing pains and nods to their influences that serve to remind us a band’s conception is rarely perfect.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/127420-japandroids-no-singles/