***1/2 (out of four)
If Japandroids’ raw, spectacular smash-and-grab 2009 debut “Post-Nothing” sounded like a guitarist and drummer cranking out an album before the world exploded, the Vancouver rockers’ sophomore record “Celebration Rock” sounds like a band truly enjoying a last hurrah before it’s over. It’s not so much “Let’s show that apocalypse what we think of it!” as “If it’s all over tomorrow, we know we made the most of tonight.” And it's an epic, focused soundtrack to memories.
With elevated power and clarity, singer/guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse again confront moments on the edge of oblivion, but youthful abandon becomes universal satisfaction as fear matures into confidence. Heaven and hell play a big role on the record but not in service of bad behavior; “Fire’s Highway” captures the harmonious merging of ordinary souls, fitting snugly into an album about a flawed world with endless possibility.
The band shouldn’t have covered The Gun Club’s “For the Love of Ivy,” since the song’s barroom blitz doesn’t hold a candle to Japandroids’ hook-heavy explosions. I never liked the phrase “makes you feel alive,” but songs like “Adrenaline Nightshift” and “The Nights of Wine and Roses” tap directly into the sensation. A perfect song about temporary perfection, “The House That Heaven Built” makes a terrific lead-in to poignantly hypothetical closer “Continuous Thunder” and follow-up to “Younger Us,” on which King recalls, “Remember that night you were already in bed, said [bleep] it and got up to drink with me instead.”
It’s one of many times this awesome, essential summer record recognizes the best days don’t last forever, but now’s a great time to wake up.