If you work in marketing, or the Internet, or pretty much any regulated industry where there are rules in place, there’s a certain phrase called Best Practice. I used to think it meant choosing the option that was ethically correct against what you could be doing, but it turns out it just means something that has been proven to work over time. Either way, posting on Japandroids twice in six months, and on the same album no less, is probably not Best Practice for blogs. Celebration Rock isn’t getting any newer and neither are the songs from it, and aside from figuring out that the duo were from Vancouver rather than Montreal, not a great deal has changed. I mean, obviously something has, because I’ve been totally taken with these guys since seeing them at Laneway Festival (soon to be launching in the US) earlier this year and accordingly, I’ve been wearing out their CD until it hurts.
Somewhere in these pages, in a place I’ll never find using our not-very-intelligent algorithm, I’ve talked about the special place in my heart reserved for really long, ruminative yet epic love songs that bands deliberately decide to close out an album with. In fact, their very decision to make this kind of thing is important because it represents a fundamental belief in the concept of an album at all. A song like this was never going to be a single, and if we go forward towards that kind of culture, there’s a shit-hot chance that these sorts of songs stop being made. The blessed experience of having an entire album (even if it is only eight songs like this one) is finding an nugget like this at the bottom. Having actually looked at the file properly, I become aware that this song isn’t actually that long or epic at all. It barely clocks five minutes. And yet, somehow Japandroids rip a hole somewhere in the space-time continuum because this thing feels like it goes on forever. In a really good way.
Like every great Japandroids song (read: 90% of them), the success of ‘Continuous Thunder’ rests in primal elements; that endless, mess of distorted guitar and an unwavering pummelling of floor toms and snare drums. Many bands use this combination, but these two do it the best. I know this because every time I hear this song I experience a confusing wave of emotions whereby I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be singing or crying, drinking with friends or cowering alone late into the night. It’s a Pyrrhic victory march, a win that also comes with a loss, something that’s articulated perfectly in the wounded vocals of Brian King. “You took my hand / Through the cold, pissing rain / Dressed to the nines / Arm in arm with me tonight,” he sings, “Singing out loud / Like continuous thunder.” There’s not a lot of deep imagery in those lines, and yet there’s this kind of intense gravity to it all, kicked into third gear by the machine gun timekeeping of the same guy who made ‘Fire’s Highway’ such a trip. There’s only one section, really, and two vocal parts, but it swells and swells, with the guitars self-immolating at greater and greater speeds until the whole thing looks set to derail and the listener is simply gobsmacked. Bands can achieve a lot with very little, this we know. But only a few of them can achieve something transcendent. ‘Continuous Thunder’ is one of those songs.
Japandroids – ‘Continuous Thunder’