Japandroids @ The Cockpit, Leeds 25/05/12
Japandroids kicked off (or failed to kick off) their set with an anecdote about how their last set in Leeds failed to kick off. But like any punk rock act worth their salt they didn’t get caught in an infinite regress and then opened with ‘The Boys Are Leaving Town’.
As assured by guitarist/vocalist Brian King the set featured a lot of tracks from forthcoming album Celebration Rock peppered with older songs so “you all don’t get bored”. New one ‘Younger Us’ with its pop punk nostalgia and sudden double-time couplet of “Give me that night you were already in bed / said fuck it, and got up to drink with me instead” effectively showcased the leaner, cleaner energy of their forthcoming record. Maybe it’s that the album leaked (playfully alluded to by the band), but when new tracks ‘Fire’s Highway’ and ‘Evil’s Sway’ came up you’d barely know from the crowd that they were relatively unfamiliar, with new single ‘The House That Heaven Built’ particularly well-received.
The pop punk leanings gave way to steadier, rockier, riffier inclinations in the latter part of the set with ‘Crazy/Forever’ and a propulsive rendition of ‘Heart Sweats’ from Post-Nothing, as well as ‘Darkness on the Edge of Gastown’ from the No Singles compilation. There are a few, but only a few, bands who bring that kind of shameless straight-up rock influence and deliver it like it’s a Clash cover by a handful of fifteen-year-olds with massive amps. And over the past decade, particularly the last five years so with the likes of No Age, we’ve seen how much noise a duo can bring that it’s barely worth mentioning, but this one left the kind of ringing, aural scar tissue that’s all too infrequent for relatively low-key gigs. And at 70 minutes or so no one was being ripped off. A quip about the cost of seeing a single, unnamed member of The Strokes hammered it home.
If there was an issue at hand, a fly in the ointment, an Hollande in the Merkopalypse it stemmed from Japandroids falling on the indie rock side of punk and what that sometimes means for audience participation. Despite a series of polite and good-natured invitations from King for the crowd to dance or sing along, they remained for the most part calmly absorbed in the noise while swaying a little. Which was “cool too” King reassured, but it was difficult to drown the notion that the gig would have been elevated substantially by a little more activity.
But whatever energetic and visceral potential wasn’t completely fulfilled by an appreciative and reverent crowd, Japandroids set out to, in their own words, redeem themselves for their last performance in Leeds. Nobody told them that redemption was barely an issue, but they did what they intended to and if you’re going to close on a cover then why not The Gun Club’s ‘For the Love of Ivy’?