It’s rare that I ever get excited for new rock albums anymore. However, even though there have been much more pressing things going on this weekend, I am quite excited to listen to Near To The Wild Fire Of Life, the new Japandroids album that came out on Friday. This is in no small part due to the fact that if I had to choose a favorite album of the ’10s so far, it’d have to be the band’s 2012 release Celebration Rock, which is also perhaps the most aptly titled album of the decade so far. Also, the fact that it took the band a whole five years to release a follow-up has also fueled my anticipation, even if there’s also a part of me that wishes they’d broken up after that last LP. Because if I’m being honest, it’s hard to imagine them putting out a better collection of heart-pounding anthems, such as the one I’m about to talk about.
Song: “The House That Heaven Built” by Japandroids
Album: Celebration Rock
Written by: Japandroids
My Relationship With This Song
I feel like I was a little late to the party with it, but I had liked the Japandroids’ first album 2009’s Post-Nothing, but I don’t know if I ever loved it as much as I wanted to. Because I will always be fan of loud, passionate, sweaty rock and roll, so of course I was gonna check out their second album when it came out in the summer of 2012. Though if I’m being honest, I wasn’t expecting much, since it’s rare that a band that comes storming out of the gate with such a simplified sound is ever able to make that much of a leap with their sophomore album. But somehow, by upping the stakes, upping the songwriting craft, and upping the heaviness (sonically and thematically), they created a work that will always make me wanna get up and yell like hell to the heavens.
As I said, this was a summer album, and what with its use of literal fireworks bookending it, it was a good one (Japandroids have clearly never shied away from being exactly what they claim to be). Though I don’t know if that summer was necessarily one of celebration, if one more of quiet transition into the realities of adulthood for me personally. At the time, I was working a thankless full time retail job that was the definition of “just a job”, while spending usually about one night a week heading into the city to record Top Ten Thursdays (I think we even talked about this album on our first ever “best of the year so far” episodes). But on the summer nights I wasn’t recording podcasts, I would usually end up driving home while blasting the crap out of this album in my 1994 Acura Integra which only had a couple months to live.
And I’m not sure there’s ever been a better album to shout along to in your car while driving home from a dead-end job. So much so that I remember stretching out my drive by taking the long way home, just so I could listen to nearly all of Celebration Rock‘s tight 35 minute running time. “The House That Heaven Built” always felt like the song on the album where Japandroids pushed themselves as hard as they possibly could on an album that always felt like they never stopped pushing. Because after a song like this, where else could you possibly go other than a downbeat epilogue like “Continuous Thunder”? It’s the reason why this is one of those songs that I sometimes play along to on drums right before I’ve got nothing more left in me, and I’d be surprise if it didn’t typically hold a similar position in the Japandroids’ live setlists.
Reasons Why I Love This Song
As I just mentioned, this is a song I’ve played along with on drums numerous times, while of course wearing headphones to drown out the inevitable tom-bashing and high-hat thrashing. But at the same time, this is a song I’ve also played on guitar a bunch as well, and in essence giving me the ability to play every instrument (if you’re also counting singer Brian King’s voice) on a song that sounds huger than huge. That’s a pretty special thing. Especially considering the main riff of this song is just two chords (albeit giant-sounding ones) being continuously rearranged and shouted over. As is the Japandroids MMO, it’s doing a lot with a little.
The vocals doesn’t make sense
And weirdly enough, the singing in this song might be the hardest part to replicate. Pretty much the entire song, King’s voice sounds like its about to crack and crumble under the weight of his undeterred enthusiasm, which makes singing along to it a bit of struggle. It almost doesn’t make sense that this kind of intensity should be sustainably for an entire song, but somehow the song has just enough breaks to catch its breath, and it certainly helps that King is backed-up by drummer David Prowse’s refrains of “whoah-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh!”
“Tell ’em all to go to hell”
Like a lot of Celebration Rock, “The House That Heaven Built” has this innate kind of joyousness that’s also complemented by a healthy dose of reality. Case in point, the chorus at the heart of this song being “When they love you, and they will. / Tell ’em all they’ll love in my shadow. / And if they try to slow you down. / Tell ’em all to go to hell.” Just by breaking down these for lines, you can see it’s evenly split up into positivity and negativity, though that negativity is only expounded in the name of positivity. I’m not sure exactly what point I’m trying to make here. I guess I’m saying it’s always good to stay positive, but if some asshole is standing in the way of making things better, then maybe it’s best to boot their ass straight to hell. Also, this dichotomy of “heaven” and “hell” just adds to the song’s immensely high stakes.
Its all about bro-manship
It feels like a lot of the great duos in rock have had a somewhat contentious relationship, but I’ve never gotten that vibe from Japandroids. They seem like the best of bros, and that more than carries into “The House That Heaven Built”. With every chorus Brian King shouts, he’s got his good buddie David “not Darth Vader” Prowse repeating every one of King’s lines back to him as if to say, “I got you bro”. And if I’m being honest, this band has always reminded me a bit of my best bro and fellow Mildly Pleaser/Japandroids fan Sean Lemme, whose lifelong friendship started to retain itself a bit more around the time this album came out (I’d just moved back to Seattle after school). So of course I can’t wait to see Japandroids along with him when they stop by town in a few months.
Why I Will Always Love This Song
I think the cathartic nature of this song is kind of undeniable. If you’re in a certain kind of mood, feeling like the whole world is bearing down on you and there’s no where left to turn, this is the perfect kind of song to turn to. And needless to say, we’re currently living through a time and place where that kind of feeling seems to be pushing up against your own happiness every second you let your guard down. Unlike in the 60s and 70s, I can’t say that rock n’ roll is the perfect cultural antidote to fight this feeling, but I can say any song with this kind of firey passion and lust for life most certainly can be a light in any kind of all-encompassingly dark day. Let’s tell every one of those days to go to hell.