Japandroids still deliver plenty of distorted guitar hooks and drum damage

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      Near to the Wild Heart of Life (Arts & Crafts/Anti-)

      Time and space are generally in flux for the guys in Japandroids, who have logged hundreds of shows around the world on multiple marathon tours. It’s therefore no surprise that concepts of home crop up on the duo’s new Near to the Wild Heart of Life full-length, their third album and first in nearly five years.

      Despite wrapping the massive campaign behind sophomore set Celebration Rock in 2013, guitarist Brian King and drummer Dave Prowse have been travelling nonstop, working on their latest eight songs in New Orleans, King’s now part-time home bases of Toronto and Mexico City, and good old Vancouver.

      As such, the opening title track weighs in on the “continuous cold war between my home and my hometown”. Contemplating his displacement atop open chords and hammer-down beats, King pushes aside fever dreams of the past with the feeling of community he gets at his new local bar.

      While receptive to change, Japandroids haven’t completely remodelled themselves for this latest release; the duo still deliver plenty of familiarly distorted guitar hooks and drum damage.

      That said, tracks like “North East South West” and the Prowse-sung standout “Midnight to Morning” thrive on a heartland-rock vibe far less scrappy than the East Van–made rockers’ early catalogue, and the band also ushers in mature-album musts like ambient washes of sound and a good deal of acoustic strumming.

      The epic, seven-and-a-half-minute “Arc of Bar” shakes things up the most with a digitally manipulated guitar loop, an icily straight-up backbeat, and King’s long-form treatise on familiarizing himself with a new hometown’s bar scene full of bloodsucking parasites, “hustlers and whores”.

      Japandroids has already booked a ton of dates for 2017; only time will tell how long it’ll be before he gets back to the chaos at his local.