Albums Of The Week

Back to the good old days of rock

Guitarist-singer Brian King (above, in a 2013 picture) is one-half of Canadian duo Japandroids.
Guitarist-singer Brian King (above, in a 2013 picture) is one-half of Canadian duo Japandroids.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER FILE

Canadian duo Japandroids' latest album blends 1970s punk with 1980s arena rock, while Ty Segall's work mixes fuzzy rock and trippy psychedelia

Despite their absence at the top of the mainstream charts, the latest album releases by Canadian duo Japandroids and American garage rock supremo Ty Segall prove how vital good old-fashioned rock music can be.

Near To The Wild Heart Of Life marks the return of Japandroids, five years after their last long-form release, Celebration Rock, made it to many critics' lists of the best releases of 2012.

On their third album, guitarist- singer Brian King and drummer/ singer David Prowse refine their effervescent brand of high-spirited rock 'n' roll that blends the bombastic quality of 1980s arena rock with the urgency and vibrancy of 1970s punk.

A celebratory and optimistic mood is palpable throughout the eight songs, which are designed to be cranked up loud.

    • ROCK/PUNK

      NEAR TO THE WILD HEART OF LIFE

      Japandroids

      Anti-

      4/5 stars

    • GARAGE ROCK

      TY SEGALL

      Ty Segall

      Drag City

      4.5/5 stars

The duo's manifesto is pretty much laid out in the title of the third track - True Love And A Free Life Of Free Will, a rabble-rousing song driven by Prowse's galloping, Taiko-sounding beats.

The title track, borrowed from James Joyce's A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man, is a fiery, power-chord nugget inspired by King's personal awakening in the wake of his move from Vancouver to Toronto.

While most of the songs are two- minute guitar-drum numbers, the two stretch themselves on the seven-minute-long Arc Of Bar, a synth-heavy tune that slowly builds up with layers of guitars and choral singing.

While the Japandroids' new album is chock-full of singalong anthems, Segall's latest release is an intricate blend of fuzzy rock and trippy psychedelia.

The eponymous release is the prolific singer, songwriter and guitarist's ninth album under his own name (his prodigious output also includes works released under the monikers Fuzz and Ty Segall Band).

It is a hair-swinging collection of scuzzy tunes that run the gamut of affecting folk-rock (Orange Color Queen) to extended experimental jams such as Warm Hands (Freedom Returned).

The work's warm, organic production - coupled with the fact that Segall's assembled band of deft musicians recorded all the tracks live, sans overdubs and studio trickery - produces an exhilarating sound that makes it feel like they are playing right in front of the listener.

The guitars are thick and viscous, with duelling solos and serpentine riffs running helter-skelter amid manic key and tempo changes.

Somewhere in the thick of it all, Segall and acclaimed underground producer Steve Albini even fit in the sounds of them smashing a toilet in Thank You Mr. K's offbeat interlude, as seen in a video they posted online.

It is an intoxicating mix - the multi-part harmonies and Beatles- like melodies keep the songs cohesive, even as Segall delves into seemingly nonsensical fare in Take Care (To Comb Your Hair)'s playful lyrics and the one-chord, 12- second-long final track, Untitled.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2017, with the headline 'Back to the good old days of rock'. Print Edition | Subscribe