Following a five-year hiatus, Japandroids’ return was long overdue, and while a large part of the album is a refreshing change of pace from the bolstering Celebration Rock, “No Known Drink or Drug” only strays slightly from Japandroids’ lineage, while also perfectly summing up Near to the Wild Heart of Life (released 1/27/2017 via ANTI- Records). It’s not the first time that anyone’s ever compared romance to a drug, but like all great Japandroids songs, they take a simple or cliché feeling and amplify it.
Listen: “No Known Drink or Drug” – Japandroids
Built on simple power chord rock, “No Known Drink or Drug” wouldn’t have sounded completely out of place on Celebration Rock save for Brian King’s lack of shouting. That being said, King’s decision to simply sing does make this song work all that better. Since he’s not shouting every word, he can emphasize the more important emotions such as in the lines,
Ever since she started sleeping over
Oh, Lord, I’m living like a Holy Roller
David Prowse’s touches of “Sha na na” also help add texture to this otherwise simple song. Even though this is a song to throw an arm around your friends to, it’s a little bit more nuanced in its production. There’s more variety in King’s guitar tones ranging from a bright, clean distortion to a little bit of fuzz. Prowse’s drumming is restrained with few fills that aren’t the type of heart-racing pounding like on “Near to the Wild Heart of Life.” Even though “No Known Drink or Drug” sounds like a standard Japandroids tune on the surface, it has a number of small touches that show how much this band has changed.
From the “drifter’s demons” to the “slow-burning sermons,” these are quintessential Japandroids lyrics. King has grown wordier on the band’s third album, but the imagery he evokes fall perfectly within the type of world that Japandroids songs exist in. Although the lyrics no longer are showered in Pabst Blue Ribbon, King still sounds incredibly nostalgic:
A red ammo romance in the summer heat
in parks, on patios, and in the streets
Our mission: making moments into memories
Even though the nostalgia is there, this isn’t the same man that sang “Younger Us.” He’s content to just look back on the past, without attempting to relive it. King has found a point in his life where the celebratory boozing of the band’s last record is fun to reflect on, but not a place he wants to go again. He’s now met someone that makes him happy that not even the drunkest rock record of the past ten years could make him want to get rid of it.
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cover © Leigh Righton