There were a few times in the thick of the overworked and sweaty dance floor, amidst a sea of plaid, pogoing, mostly-male bodies, that one could easily imagine that the Japandroids’ show was happening in 1995. It’s not that the Vancouver buzz-band were in any way shirking their duties at the Waldorf, though. They’re certainly not slouches in generating a full-sounding and ear-wobbling set, it’s just that their tunes hone in on ‘90s-era alt-rock inanity.
Guitarist Brian King was quick to remark that he and drummer David Prowse hadn’t played together live since New Year’s Eve, so maybe that can account for the overwhelming sameness that seemed to manifest in every song. Their set contained a mix of tunes from their Pitchfork-praised Post-Nothing and a slough of new material that had the staying power of confetti.
Obviously the sold-out crowd—hanging off of King’s every wisecrack —would disagree, but it seemed apparent that so much of the scuttlebutt around this band is as manufactured as the recognizable influences they parrot song after song.
Prowse’s inchoate crashing strove for Dave Grohl-era Nirvana, but mostly called to mind Animal from the Muppets. That each song seemed to coalesce in the pair’s childlike yelling seemed to further underscore their ability to write but one kind of song.
Fan favourites like “Rockers East Vancouver” and “The Boys Are Leaving Town” offered ramshackle charms that certainly spoke to some of the crowd, inciting yesterday’s craze as stage-divers bombarded their peers. The hackneyed “whoa whoa” chorus yelps assaulted the ears the same as the divers did the dance floor.
When not dropping an oversupply of f-bombs or delivering a running joke about flubbing songs as if they were “doing crystal meth on New Year’s Eve” (which might have been funny if used more sparingly and in a less gentrified neighbourhood), King’s stage persona was a shining example of cocky douchebaggery. “We nailed it,” or “that was awesome,” were common remarks. Tell us how you really feel about yourself there, King.
As I tried mightily to see what my approving and eager peers were seeing and stringently attempted not to call out the emperor as being stark-naked, the mediocrity on display, the dire safeness of the music and the ‘90s-era emo oversaturation started to take it’s toll. I kept wishing I’d caught more of the openers, Mississippi three-piece, Bass Drum of Death. Their bluesy garage rock predilection, while conjuring up both the Black Angels and the Black Keys, occasionally went into grunge and punk patterned territories with alacrity.
The Waldorf was jam-packed for Japandroids, who certainly have some loyal and forgiving fans. As mercurial as it was, the show didn’t win them any new ones.