4 of 4 thought this review was well written
Tokyo Police Club's full-length debut, Elephant Shell, is an album that benefits greatly from an obviously streamlined compositional philosophy. Musically, this translates into a shimmering, busy collection of 2008's finest, most authentic minimalist-pop songs. The album itself, for all its bold-faced simplicity, features some striking architecture and intelligent, slight diversity while maintaining common musical and lyrical themes throughout. It's an impressive anthem for all things linear, and ends so quickly that one is naturally compelled to hear it again.
Whereas most bands would be crippled by the restraints this music knowingly fetters itself with, Tokyo Police Club is incendiary--lighting fires with skill and efficient simplicity. The opening track, "Centennial," is a prime example of what Elephant Shell is all about. The song begins with a nimble percussive flow that is maintained until the very end, anchoring the stop-start dynamics of the band's musical intrusion. Bass and guitars don't surge or build to anything, they merely appear and disappear, allowing the drums to emphasize the steady, nasal hush of singer Dave Monks' vague but impeccable lyrics. I counted only two riffs in the entire affair, one musically repeating verse, no chorus whatsoever, and with only one bridge lasting twelve seconds--all of which coming to full, catchy, inspired fruition in less than two minutes.
Needless to say, this is not an album of fattened, repetitive structures. In fact, Elephant Shell shines most when the band does least and songs end where they should. This isn't to suggest a lack of depth or that the songs themselves are generally complacent or uninteresting, but instead charmingly reveals the band for their youthfulness and honesty. They don't seem to care much for "fleshing-out" and extraneous filler; it's the difference between a sentence composed by a poet, and another by a journalist: one is flowery and crafted from deliberation while the other is purposeful and directly to the point.
Lyrically, each song is well adorned and beautifully measured. Monks is an obviously gifted writer, and manages to be wordy without being gaudy, a lesson which Ben Gibbard would be well advised to learn from. Actually, all the Death Cab for Cutie comparisons should serve as a compliment to Tokyo Police Club, because this is a band that realizes how to imbue songs with real humanity as opposed to maudlin, whiny melodrama. When Monks delivers in deadpan "Your ghost did you wrong/When he wiped your spit on the tablecloth/I am here to fight/And let your blood in the dim moonlight/Two wrongs making right," in the brilliant "The Harrowing Adventures Of...," he leaves startling impressions while never forcing an emotional response. It's haunting, and serves as the perfect counter-point to Elephant Shell's busy, weightless atmosphere.
Rarely seen is the band that knows itself for what it truly is, but that's exactly what Tokyo Police Club seems to be--a self-conscious indie-pop band that knows how to make you sing along, and maybe even mean it, if only for a couple of minutes at a time. They're far from pretentious, which is exactly why their careful simplicity is forgivable and, most importantly, enjoyable.