As the album’s title suggests, Japandroids’ debut album is a moment after something. A breakdown of some sort of aesthetic, en route to something new. The band works feverishly to deliver something somewhere between two other somethings. But what? Shoegaze versus garage-rock versus lo-fi? Whatever direction this album wants to go, whatever it wants to become, the band either isn’t sure or doesn’t care to tell.
The album—only eight tracks and just over 30 minutes—breaks itself near the midpoint. The first four tracks inhabit a somewhat monotonous area. The vocals are more accurately described as cacophonous choruses amid lo-fi garage punk torrents, though there are hints at melody here and there. It seems as though the entire thing is always on the verge of clipping. The tracks push forward with neither relief nor mounting intensity—just a consistency of range, tone, and energy—as a nebulous wall of mid-range sound.
Yet when “Heart Sweats” begins on the fifth track, the complete shift in rhythm is a decidedly interruptive and welcome diversion. The vocal rhythms become standard and choppy as opposed to drawn out and irregular. The song dips back to the opening style here and there but overall acts as a pivot.
“Crazy/Forever” takes on a more classic rock-inspired feel, and it is this track that ushers in what seems to be the first really sung melody. The unflinching bassline grounds the lilting and psychedelic repetition in the guitar, and the vocals almost sound heartfelt, though they are consistently at risk of being overtaken by the instrumentation.
“Sovereignty” returns to the sound heard earlier in the album, but the closing track, “I Quit Girls,” trims the fat. Just guitars and vocals in the first half of the track before the inevitable bass drum build-up that ushers in the full band.
And after all that build up—from the consistency of the first half to the more straightforward rock in the second, to the epic closing track—the album simply fades out. Where is it going? Post-Nothing? Think about it.