It's no longer 1979, but the outrage is now.Warner Bros. Records/Last Gang Records, 2017
7.7 / 10
Did Japandroids release a new album this year? I barely can remember, which means (a) the duo’s style of stirring anthemic rock has become dull or (b) the Japandroids just put out a lackluster album. The answer I come to is ‘b’ after hearing the new album from Death From Above (they drop the ‘1979’). Both bands are Canadian duos; however, while Japandroids have always been a “rock” band, Death From Above have also been associated as a dance act. Just a wild and raucous one. With their third album, Outrage! Is Now, Sebastien Grainger and Jesse F. Keeler hardly ever want to make you dance, just thrash. Although the title implies it being an album of the times, it lacks an explicit political message. Rather, DFA sound mad because they’re getting old, and it’s hard to get into a rage over anything.
Hey, getting older will do that to anyone. “Outrage! Outrage! I’m out of rage/ Maybe it’s my age,” Grainger sings on the title track. But even as DFA’s members get older, their venom grows stronger. Keeler’s bass feels more powerful than ever while Grainger’s drumming recalls the explosions from Dasher’s recent album. However, they balance their rage with undeniable hooks, which was Japandroids bread and butter up until now. Here, DFA take the ball and run with it. It feels almost like a renewed sense of urgency behind the songs (most of which are good). Still, there are a few misfires. “All I C Is U & Me” draws outrage for its text message title, but also, it feels insignificant on an album of huge songs. Still, it doesn’t lack in energy, but no song on this album is guilty of that.
“NVR 4EVR” (another pukey text message title) follows, but its chugging riffs pair incredibly well with Grainger’s catchy chorus that looks worse in text than when he sings it: “I might not like you so let’s try to see where it goes/ Don’t go away too soon I’ll follow/ But never forever/ Never forever.” Then, there’s “Never Swim Alone” which feels too pop friendly versus anything else here. Its absurd lyrics — “Pray to American Idol/ YouTube haircut so in style” — also stir groans. However, its spastic energy finds a way to worm its way into your head until it just sounds good.
The songs that don’t require as much work to like — “Freeze Me”, “Outrage! Is Now”, and “Holy Books” — eschew silliness for seriousness. However, they don’t lose their ability to move you as Grainger hooks you on certain words or phrases. He does this in “Freeze Me” where he uses “safe spaces” in the lyric, “Are we outside the safe spaces of love?” Then, “Holy Books” is particularly seething against religion where he sings, “Cover up your virgin sluts/ Temptation never rusts.” It’s nice when the lyrics’ bite matches that of the band’s music. Japandroids who?