Ten years after its release, Japandroids’ Post-Nothing still holds a special place in contributor Jon Neher’s heart as the soundtrack to youthful optimism and a reminder to always dream of the future.
Where did you see yourself ten years ago? Where did you see yourself five years ago? One year? Predicting the future is a near-futile exercise. Yet it’s something we partake in a little bit every day: financing a car, assuming we will be able to pay for it through our job; bringing a raincoat because it is supposed to rain when we will be walking outside; saying “I do” to our partner and tying our lives together; donating a pair of jeans that no longer fit.
Ten years ago, Japandroids thought there was no future left for their band and they planned to wrap things up by self-releasing Post-Nothing, their first full-length record. On its surface, the album seems agnostic to this backstory, its instruments radiating ebullience. How could you be sad at this tempo, uncertain while singing this loud, disappointed while jamming so hard? Frame it another way: who hasn’t done a bump of cocaine or a Jägerbomb to conceal the pain and uncertainty in their life?
When I listen to “Young Hearts Spark Fire” now I am blown away by how lyrics that are fundamentally at a third-grade reading level have been able to deeply shift meaning for me based on a few years of experience. As a young college student, I saw optimism and go-go attitude in the lyrics “Well you can keep tomorrow / After tonight we’re not gonna need it.” While all the political reflection at this ten year mark might be trite now, I can’t help but feel that the then success of hope and change in the United States had spilled over into my life and was encouraging me to save the world by burning the candle at both ends as I yelled to the heavens. Now as my wax continues to melt, I identify more strongly with the chorus and it’s mantra-like repetitions chasing away death’s spectre: “Oh, we used to dream / Now we worry about dying / I don’t wanna worry about dying / I just wanna worry about those sunshine girls”. It’s less morbid than it is hopeful, but it’s a cognizance of pain and responsibility that touches me more today than ever.
It becomes abundantly clear throughout Post-Nothing that, for all the high-fiving of bros and the late night partying at bars, Japandroids were still searching for something else and younger me would have noticed if I slowed myself down for a second. “Rockers East Vancouver” alludes to being stuck and “Sovereignty” clearly calls upon the escapist notion of running away from our problems for a new start at a better life. Even if I would have paid attention to the difference in production and songcraft between their early songs collected in No Singles versus Post-Nothing it was very clear that they had done some serious growing by embracing (ever so slightly) more complicated song structure and grabbing on to poppy hooks, milking them for all their worth.
Japandroids had seemingly tried everything and were all out of ideas. These dudes had been publicly unhappy with how they performed and how their careers were going. If not for the insistence of the record label Unfamiliar and a glowing review from Pitchfork, Post-Nothing would have been a final, cheerful flipping of the bird to their circumstances as they exited the music business for the nine-to-five. Instead, Japandroids went on to great acclaim and, despite long hiatuses, continue to write and perform to this day. Who could have predicted this ten years ago?
Listening to Post-Nothing now, I hear moments of boyish enthusiasm towards women that don’t translate particularly well (see french-kissing French girls in “Wet Hair” or finding oneself lucky with the girl who wears nothing in “I Quit Girls”). While the duo’s lyrics are far from the worst examples of misogyny in music, the ever-present male gaze I’m now aware of makes it a little harder for me to belt along with some lyrics in 2019. It’s a little easier to listen knowing that there are plenty of tender moments that show Japandroids are just two doofuses pining for something they don’t understand, but it’s a little jarring all the same. I’ve done some growing up since 2009, and so has the world. Things have changed since I first heard Japandroids, but Post-Nothing still holds a special place in my heart as the soundtrack to youthful optimism in 2009 and a reminder for me to dream in 2019.