Canadian noise-rock duo Japandroids may be one of a growing band of two-piece outfits that sound like a train colliding with an oil tanker - see also No Age, Wavves and of course scene grandaddies Lightning Bolt - yet as last year's excellent debut long player Post-Nothing demonstrated, they're also partial to writing the odd tune to go with it. Listening back to their back catalogue, that wasn't always the case, as this revisit through those embryonic days will testify.
Having initially formed the band back in 2006, the duo of Brian King and David Prowse didn't hang about too long before embarking on their first recording. The five tracks that went on to become the All Lies EP coupled with those of its successor, Lullaby Death Jams, are all included on No Singles, and while there's no mistaking Japandroids displaying a lot of early promise back in the day, it would be fair to say they've taken gargantuan steps in terms of development between these releases and the aforementioned Post-Nothing. If anything, the majority of these songs, particularly those off that first EP, represent a band learning to walk from a musical perspective. While obviously brimming with ideas, King and Prowse still hadn't quite discovered a formula to convey their wares to a feverishly devouring audience at this point. What this means is that the cacophonous likes of 'Couture Suicide' and 'Coma Complacency' sound somewhat unfinished, like half-formed thought processes waiting for a surge of inspiration. That neither of these remain as part of the band's live set probably speaks for itself.
Towards the end of All Lies however, there are signs that their creative nous was emerging, even if that comes via a spirited and fairly unique take on Mclusky's 'To Hell With Good Intentions'. Although not entirely disparate from the original, the elongated discordant intro leading into those immortal words "My dad is bigger than your dad..." actually give the impression Japandroids may have tried to re-write the song in their own time signature, the lyrics being the only dead giveaway of its origins. Better still is 'Press Corps', a fairly simplistic piece of music wrapped around a three-chord riff punctuated by the repeated cries of "Press corps - give her something to wake up for!" like some seedy insubordinate mantra.
By the time of 2008's Lullaby Death Jams, Japandroids were already well on their way to becoming the exciting specimen seen and heard today. 'Darkness On The Edge Of Gastown' and 'No Allegiance To The Queen' both resonate with a playfulness that mirrors images of Black Sabbath cavorting in a tar-infested pit of quicksand. Similarly 'Lucifer's Symphony', the closing statement on the band's second batch of recordings, illustrates their new found confidence and approach to writing perfectly, more than hinting at what was to follow in the ensuing months.
In some ways, it would perhaps be a little unfair to compare the contents of No Singles too closely to the mainly flawless Post-Nothing. Sure, it's the same two people responsible for creating the whole shebang, but at drastically different stages of their musical proficiency, it must be said. For completists, No Singles does represent something of a must-have about it, particularly as both of those EPs are now almost impossible to find unless you have several hundred pounds to send to some unscrupulous salesperson on eBay. However, bearing in mind it's highly unlikely most critics or punters will have heard any of this material before, especially after the unanimous praise heaped on both Post-Nothing and their subsequent live shows over here with A Place To Bury Strangers last year, the contents of No Singles could also be deemed a tad inconsequential when listened to straight after its far superior successor.
6Dom Gourlay's Score