By Gurman Sahota, February 14 2017 —
Occasionally, a more commercial album is a great decision for a band. But that’s not the case for Japandroids and their newest release, Near To The Wild Heart of Life.
From the first track, listeners will recognize a single that could gain commercial success if marketed correctly. Subtle, scratchy vocals with an infectious chorus will no doubt be stuck in your head and set the tone for the rest of the album — it’s almost boring.
The first and second tracks blend together, but not in the way that the listener yearns for. There isn’t much distinction between the tracks and it isn’t until the third song that it feels like the band has put in any effort. Even then, “True Love and a Free Life of Free Will” eventually morphs into the sound of its preceding tracks after an intense and refreshing musical introduction.
The album doesn’t get better, but the band does manage to stray from these dull opening tracks to something more entertaining. If anything, the second part of the album is reminiscent of The Verve and their classic 1997 album Urban Hymns. But be warned — where Urban Hymns sounds hip, Near To The Wild Heart of Life sounds dated.
“Midnight to Morning” would work on the soundtrack of a cool, coming-of-age indie movie and is just as sweet. It’s one of the album’s better songs, with just the right mixture of vocals, lyrics and instrumentals.
There isn’t much risk with this album release that relies on guitar riffs and evoking an image of a band that’s just starting out — unsure of what their sound should be. However, as this is Japandroids’ fourth studio album, it comes off as lazy and lacks the panache of an experienced band.