Japandroids @ Rock & Roll Hotel – 3/29/10

Indie rock is defined by trends. Call it revival, tribute, or pastiche, but bands that fall under the generous umbrella of “indie rock” are constantly going back to the well of rockers past for inspiration. A current trend finds many bands aping the sound of shoegaze pioneers like My Bloody Valentine, creating huge walls of fuzz that wash over the listener like waves of static.

Vancouver’s Japandroids get fuzz, but rather than waves, they release blasts of distorted guitars like a fire hose. Playing Rock and Roll Hotel last night, the band captivated a packed house for over an hour with aggressive but fun garage rock.

Guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse split the stage like Solomon’s baby. Like other notable duos, chiefly Death From Above 1979, they compensate for the lack of a bass guitar with a full-frontal sonic assault, all muscular chords and non-stop drumming. Earplugs are necessary, but the sound is clear despite being extremely overdriven. The riffs are familiar and catchy, recalling alternative rock from the mid-90s and early 2000s, be it grunge or emocore. While they share vocal duties, King takes the lead, with a charming blend of mania and Canadian aw-shucks pleasantness. They’re genuinely appreciative but self-deprecating, like when King told the crowd that they didn’t deserve applause after an unsatisfactory (to the band) performance of “Hearts Sweats.”

Japandroids played most of their Pitchfork-approved record Post-Nothing, along with older material, including a cover of Mclusky’s “To Hell with good intentions” and obscure songs like “Body Bag.” After a brief intro, the band kicked into high gear with “The Boys Are Leaving Town,” where Prowse’s extended drum fills mirror the chorus: “will we find our way back home?” On “Rockers East Vancouver,” King took the opportunity to “dance around and play guitar like an asshole,” his favorite part of the set. After a bit of hypnotic sludge that bordered on stoner rock, the band launched into standout “Young Hearts Spark Fire,” with it’s sing-along chorus of “We used to dream / now we worry about dying / I don’t wanna worry about dying / I just wanna worry about those sunshine girls.”

Opener Love is All, a five-piece from Sweden, played a set of bouncy punk and pubhouse rock. Lead singer Josephine Olausson, looking like Steve Zissou in her striped shirt and orange skullcap, sings slightly off-kilter rallying cries, reminiscent of other Scandinavian singers like Ida Maria and Lykke Li. Unfortunately, the band was pushing into the red, and the resulting cacophony sounded unfocused and repetitive. The band could stand to take a cue from Japandroids and perfect the mixing; it’s a shame that the rollicking songs on the recently released Two Thousand and Ten Injuries were lost in a bad mix.

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