A curious footnote to pop punk’s diamond renaissance – your Da Vincis with chequered shirts and your Botticellis with Saves The Day tattoos – is its thematic indigenousness. On its residual Venn Diagram you’d find the ‘ebullient’, ‘melancholic’ and ‘introspective’ circles intersecting the ‘young’ and ‘middle-aged’ ovals with manifold indexes purveying manifold talents, a paradigm that’s survived the style’s conception. Only one band occupies the centre of the maze, cohabiting and subverting all tropes, but then Near To The Wild Heart Of Life is Japandroids’ first album in nearly five years. Pop punk has evolved since Celebration Rock, and the question been churning as to whether the unaffected pair would preside their familiar patronage, or whether they have a voice in the new order.

Near To The Wild Heart Of Life glides in the slipstream of the epochal Harmlessness and Goodness, and its analogue title would be Timelessness; because unlike its architects, punchy raise-your-pint pop punk will never go grey, or at least so the titular track will have you believe. With a converging incline, the sonorous opener obliterates the cobwebs and it’s like the gang never left. Pulsating, it fosters a fragmented punk mythos, encrusted with very precise but nebulously eternal imagery; “so the girl behind the bar came over[…]/she kissed me like a chorus, said/’give ‘em hell for us’.” Sadly, the album begins with its apex.

Proceeding, there’s certainly highlights: the understated muscularity of Brian King’s gently distorted guitar on ‘Midnight to Morning’; the stirring imagery conjured in ‘No Known Drink or Drug’ and its cuddling harmonies; and the febrile Canadana (Americana’s chiller bro) of ‘North East South West’ with its appeal for transregional approximation. The riffs and virtues are as welcome as ever, but conform to type so austerely they approach interchangeability. Creatively, it’s sparse and overfamiliar, a muttering déjà vu; we’ve heard the same record manifested in much sprightlier and more nuanced iterations, none more so than from Japandroids themselves.

Interestingly though, its structural simplicity belies its ravelled density; or more exactly, its literariness. In Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen Dedalus is described early doors as “alone. He was unheeded, happy and near to the wild heart of life. He was alone and young and wilful and wildhearted.” While Japandroids’ canonical neuroticism around ageing and economic hassle still occupy the wings, Dedalus’s gradual observance of a zen self-acceptance is starkly evoked here. Assuming Near To The Wild Heart Of Life summons Dedalus’s arc of self-discovery and contentment – as strongly implied – this formal antiquity is purposeful, a dogged defence of a singular sensibility. There is a sweeping, fresh optimism throughout; only it’s not sustainably compelling when allied to the broad benignity.

The key issue is context. By removing its circumstantial baggage entirely, Near To The Wild Heart Of Life is satisfying and uplifting, and continuously so. But it feels in every way – sans the band’s personal serenity – a regression after Celebration Rock.

It’s a sincerely difficult record to configure. At once a brilliant tempest of vivacity and unease, a dialectic which Japandroids could flex in their sleep, and it’s quite possibly their tightest maelstrom. But, in a milieu where a cerebral, imaginative punk record is released every fortnight – this week’s thoughtful Sinai Vessel and next week’s resurgent Menzingers in the space of seven days alone – its rumble echoes as faintly colourless, even domesticated, no matter how ecstatic. But this is a critical perspective imbued with lofty – perhaps unfair – expectation, and maybe it’s cool that Japandroids beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past of pop punk’s primal it’s-okay-to-be-yourself/whoa-whoa-yeah!! roots. They’re wildhearted, and brazenly themselves, personifying Dedalus’s avowal that:

"I will tell you what I will do and what I will not do. I will not serve that in which I no longer believe, whether it calls itself my home, my fatherland, or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defense the only arms I allow myself to use -- silence, exile, and cunning."