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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The future's wide open for Japandroids

Tonight at Cat's Cradle

Posted by on Wed, Jun 5, 2013 at 4:01 PM

Now is the moment for Japandroids, and their lyrics reflect that carpe diem attitude. But just as “restless nights turn to restless years,” a band’s second album turns to album three (if they’re lucky). Drummer David Prowse doesn’t feel he and guitarist Brian King can continue indefinitely with this teenage esprit. Hell, even the Ramones had their Phil Spector moment. He has no interest in repeating himself perennially.

click to enlarge Brian King, left, and David Prowse are Japandroids. - PHOTO BY MAOYA BASSIOUNI
  • Photo by Maoya Bassiouni
  • Brian King, left, and David Prowse are Japandroids.

“I don’t know if we can keep making records that are as similar as Post-Nothing and Celebration Rock,” he says of the band's 2009 debut and its 2012 follow-up, the tour for which brings Japandroids to Cat's Cradle in Carrboro tonight (Wednesday, June 5).

“We had played so much more and become so much more experienced as musicians that I think we could take the same tools and record in the same place, but make a record that we thought was a considerable step up without having to change the formula," Prowse explains about how he and King approached their second album. "But I think when it comes time to make another record, there will be a lot more question about where we want to go and what we want to do.”

It’s not unusual for bands to stretch out and explore stylistically on third albums. A level of success and security encourages acts to test their boundaries, frequently resulting in exciting and enduring albums. (To wit: The Clash’s London Calling, Husker Du’s Zen Arcade, Radiohead’s OK Computer, Mastodon’s Blood Mountain.)

One of Japandroids’ touchstones, the Stooges, recorded their piece de resistance, Raw Power, amid lineup turmoil and David Bowie’s meddling. Iggy Pop stepped up his writing, invoking the “streetwalking cheetah with a heartful of napalm” on “Search & Destroy” and coming up with a magical chorus on the title track: “If you’re alone and you got the shakes/ So am I baby and I got what it takes/ Raw power will surely come running to you.”

“I think we’re still learning who we want to be as a band to some extent, as well as what kind of songs we want to write, Prowse says. “We keep refining that and just improving. It’s not an exciting answer, but that’s how we approach the band.”

Prowse notes there’s only so much they can do with the sound as a duo. It’s not like they’ll bring in James Williamson to play guitar (see: Raw Power). A good guide might be sonic older brother No Age, whose moment in the spotlight presaged Japandroids’ emergence. The duo’s third album, Everything in Between, while not as incendiary as its 2007 debut Weirdo Rippers, was a more polished but still powerful disc that made room for a jangly ballad (“Common Heat”) and textured drifting piano/feedback fugue (“Positive Amputation”).

Japandroids’ lyrics, while still reliant on repetition and clipped phrases, definitely expand on Celebration Rock, yet sonically the album is just as noisy and rambunctious as Post-Nothing. Of course, by Chapel Hill band Superchunk’s fourth album, Foolish, more baroque arrangements began to sprout and the band started to transform. It’s hard to tell what direction Japandroids will go, but it’s fun to speculate.

“It’s challenging, for sure,” says Prowse. “That’s something I think that keeps us excited, in the sense of how do we continue to improve as a two-piece with the limitations that that has.”

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Japandroids, playing Wednesday at Cat's Cradle, soon will plot how to make their third album grow from the foundation of their first two.

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