Sound Choices

Alex Schaaf

There are many ways for your senses to be hit by a good show. Sound is perhaps most obvious – most people go to a show expecting a good-sounding performance. It is music, after all. The visual aspect is also usually important, as some bands can give you a feast for the eyes as much as one for the ears.
Last Friday’s Japandroids show, however, was the first time I’ve really felt a show physically. The kick drum sound in Chicago’s Lincoln Hall was bigger than anything I’ve ever heard, as each hit shook my entire body.
This may have been partly due to the fact that I was standing in front of a subwoofer, but even from the back of the room, Lincoln Hall was a loud place Friday night. And it was only fitting that Japandroids was the band to take advantage of this sound.
Out of all the bands that I have been listening to lately, Japandroids is the one that you feel more than you hear. Sure, the songs are catchy and the guitar playing is inventive, but you don’t listen to a Japandroids song and then have an intellectual discussion about the songwriting merits of Brian King and David Prowse, breaking down the way they implemented that major seventh chord in the bridge, or the slant rhymes being utilized in the lyrics.
This is not to say that the music of Japandroids is simple or dumbed down. Rather, the band has struck upon the perfect combination of face-melting guitar sounds and huge sing-along choruses. Many songs consist of only a few lines of lyrics or only two to three chords throughout the entire song.
“Wet Hair,” for example, is made up of three lines that are repeated over and over. But rather than limiting their potential, this technique allows those lines to become so ingrained that it becomes physically impossible to restrain from shouting along to the words – “We run the gauntlet / Let’s get to France / So we can French kiss some French girls.”
In “Young Hearts Spark Fire,” the chorus, “I don’t wanna worry about dying / I just wanna worry about those sunshine girls,” is joyously declared over and over until all thoughts of worry and anxiety are long gone.
Friday night’s show saw the Japandroids playing every single song off of their debut album, 2009’s “Post-Nothing,” as well as both songs off of their recently released 7″ and a Mclusky cover, which they closed with.
The sold-out crowd was energetic and the band fed off of this energy all night: King jumped all around the stage and Prowse pounded away like a madman. The two didn’t even stop for an encore break: “We’re not going to do that ‘go off the stage and come back on’ s***, we’re just going to play the last song for you right now.”
The first band on the bill was Chicago’s Lasers and Fast and S***, who played a bizarre yet enjoyable set consisting of minute-long songs filled with tales of Arctic wolves and bombs that ended almost as soon as they had begun. They had their own light show, which, combined with the massive amounts of fog on stage, led to an impressive visual presentation, but one that got a little annoying after a while.
The second band was Avi Buffalo, a young band from California that presented a little more mellow sound, one that was pleasant and interesting, but ultimately forgettable.
The sound for Japandroids was plenty loud and bone-vibrating, but it was ultimately a bit muddy. This seemed to work for the band, however, as most of the vocal melodies weren’t really nailed anyways, with King and Prowse yelling most of the lines rather than trying to hit the exact notes.
With most bands, this would annoy me, but with Japandroids, it was perfect. The show wasn’t about hitting the right notes, or making sure the crowd could understand the words, it was about getting us to feel it, and they certainly succeeded.