Near to the Wild Heart of Life
Release Date: January 27, 2017
Once, in college, I fell asleep while driving east through Pennsyltucky on the turnpike at three AM, an experience not unlike the feeling of falling while laying flat in bed, except instead of realizing nothing actually happened, you realize you’re careening towards concrete encased steel girders at 90 MPH.
On this poorly planned excursion I had a bucket of coffee and exactly one CD – my brother’s copy of Death Cab’s then brand new Narrow Stairs. Now, I’m actually quite fond of that album, which is a great melancholy collection of musical short stories that I pop in every year when the leaves start changing, but it ain’t the soundtrack to stave off Highway Hypnosis.
Japandroids’ new Near to the Wild Heart of Life came close to recreating that experience of near fatality for me. After one listen. In my kitchen.
It’s not that it’s a bad album filled with cheap Canadian pop rock, because 1) if it was a bad album I could at least applaud them for trying, and 2) Sum 41’s Half Hour of Power is a bad album filled with cheap Canadian pop rock and it’s a classic.
Most of Wild Heart comes across as somewhere between Good Charlotte and an electrified version of the Lumineers at their “Hey Ho” worst. On the whole, the album is so inoffensive, mediocre, and uninspired that it might as well be a C+ freshman comp term paper. The opening (and title) track seems to have been written for the season finale of a network nighttime soap opera, the closing track sounds like an eighth grade chorus concert version of an unreleased Nickleback B-side, and most of what’s in between is the sort of anthemic sing-a-long turn-the-mic-to-the-crowd garbage that clogs YouTube and FM radio.
Wild Heart isn’t entirely without merit. I could see myself conceivably putting “No Known Drink or Drug” on a mixtape where it could keep better company. Other than that, the album is so bland I barely even have thoughts on it.
The largest sized coffee available at the late night/early morning turnpike rest stop, two 5-Hour Energy Shots, and whatever Golden Country Hits compilation they have festering in their discount bin