The problem that faces most hype bands is a simple one – what to do when the crowd move on to fresher meat? Way back in 2005 Tokyo Police Club started out as a couple of friends putting together a few jams and playing a few shows. Their songs were short, snappy and breathless, as was the EP that followed. Clocking in at about 18 minutes, it got every well meaning indie kid around the world jumping around their bedrooms in glee. Radio play and the mass commercial acceptance that was expected never really followed, and their debut album, Elephant Shell didn’t get the acclaim that it’s witty musings deserved.
It’s been two years and the Canadian quartet have largely been mute since then, with a few solo projects the only sustenance for fans brought up on the bristling energy of ‘Cheer it On’. Music has moved on since those heady days, however, with the landfill indie that Tokyo Police Club seemed to be the perfect antidote to being all but dead.
Though times have changed, the band’s sound hasn’t, as their latest effort, Champ, showcases. The current trend for acts to be aggressively electronic or swathed in 60’s doo-wah pop means that, somehow, the melodic indie of Dave Monks and co. still manages to sound somewhat fresh. There’s another element at play here, too, with the band clearly having matured from the post-teenage angst that fuelled their earlier works. Compared to the frantic delivery that marked ‘A Lesson in Crime’, this is measured and meandering, possibly even pedestrian.
Undoubtedly, the band still make beautiful music, something the dip in pace helps emphasise, but the noise has always been hung upon singer Monks’ lyrical wordplay. Thankfully, he’s still as poetic as ever, and the focus of his output seems to be youth. The opening pair of Favourite Food and Favourite Colour are two of the more vivid examples, mixing both the nostalgia and laid-back, summer feel that the band must’ve hoped to evoke in this album.
The main sticking point is that, though still overtly tuneful, the group appear to have lost the ability to consistently make pulse quickening tunes. The skill has obviously not completely left them yet – Breakneck Speed tugs at the heartstrings and Wait Up (Boots of Danger) is neon in it’s brilliance, but elsewhere there isn’t the same ingenuity. The songs are still good, and many very on being great without actually stepping over the threshold.
Tokyo Police Club are undoubtedly talented, something they repeatedly show throughout ‘Champ’, and pretty much anything they put out is an utter joy to listen to. The amount of acts that could put out something with the quality of Hands Reversed as an album track is probably in single figures, and it must only be a matter of time before somebody makes a movie specifically to have all these glorious songs soundtrack it. However, Champ sees the trappings of being formulaic have begun to appear at the edge. On the plus side, there are few bands that can make the methodical sound so completely mesmerising.
Tokyo Police Club – Breakneck Speed [download from pretty much amazing]