Lo-fi is a ridiculous genre. To think that an entire class of music can be defined by how it is recorded is a testament to how far rock music has stretched itself. Most of these lo-fi artists, artists who are allegedly creating something new in rock music, are nothing more than punk bands with extra fuzz and a Sonic Youth fetish. The recent surge in buzz-rock is all the proof anyone needs that history repeats itself. It's New York, 1976 all over again.
Perhaps I'd be more open to the idea of the "genre" if so many of its flagship bands didn't leave me disinterested and cold. While Wavves, No Age, Women and myriad other hip-today lo-fi bands have lit the blogs on fire, too much of their music is too self-conscious, too fashionable, almost as if these bands are trying as hard as they can to look like they aren't trying. There is nothing less appealing than a group more concerned about a look or an aesthetic than they are about making music, and that stylistic urgency is all over recent hits like Nouns and Wavvves.
It is in this respect, an emphasis on sincerity over style, that Japandrioids set themselves apart. While their core sound is not much different from that of their peers (fuzzy guitars, low-mixed drums, gang vocals), the honesty found on Post-Nothing makes it the first lo-fi rock album to actually matter.
According to the band's MySpace page, Japandroids originally set out to be a full band and only exist as a two-piece because of their impatience to find bandmates. It's easy to believe this claim. The duo fills their tracks with shouts, layered guitars and thundering drums, making as much racket as they can to compensate for absent band members. The thick layers of guitar on "Heart Sweats" and the crashing enthusiasm of "Wet Hair" beg to be filled out and highlight the band's low production as circumstance and not a stylistic, trend-catching choice.
Post-Nothing crackles with energy. Lyrics about drinking, girls and being young are delivered straight-faced, with an emphasis on directness over flowery prose. There is never any question about what is being said; their meanings are simple and without unnecessary confusion. At worst, lyrics come off tongue in cheek ("Let's move to France / so we can French kiss some French girls" on "Wet Hair"). On the other hand, there are moments, like the thrilling youth chorus of album highlight "Young Hearts Spark Fire," where the straightforwardness of the lyrics provide them with that much more punch.
Post-Nothing is an album that can wear a lot of hats. The sound lumps it in with the cresting wave of indie lo-fi. The band's simple and unpretentious discussion of young love and young lives puts them more in line with the long-gone emo bands of the mid-`90s. The underlying growl of their music has ties with Constantines-like post-hardcore. The positive attitude and communal feel of the songs makes them a Latterman-like punk group.
Regardless of classification, Japandroids have created something pure, something without pretense and without any concern for how smart or cool they will sound.
In the underground, where status is more important than comfort, Post-Nothing is a beacon of safety, a true rock record for everyone.