Review Summary: Will there be an initiation?
I’m convinced that in a world of Indie rock bands eager to sound as lazy as one of Stephen Malkmus’ yawns, Tokyo Police Club weren’t given the light of day by record companies, and I doubt they even asked for it.
Hell no. They demanded it.
For all their criticism as samey and repetitious, this Canadian bunch played their Indie rock aggressively from the get-go, as evident from their debut record Elephant Shell
, an album which had Sputnik Music’s Matt Wolfe mistaking them for his new favourite hardcore act. And that’s not all, either; their boisterous charm dates back earlier still to one of their first known tracks on their earliest EP, where “Cheer It On” had Dave Monks sound like Julian Casablancas transferred to a mental institution – he was screaming his band into existence, and meanwhile they were grooving out in what can be assumed to be some guy’s spare apartment. It pretty much paid off: A Lesson In Crime
was seventeen minutes long and Elephant Shell
was shy of thirty. Tokyo Police Club took themselves seriously, sure, but quickly.
That was then and this is now, and the most dramatic shift notable in 2010 is how calm and how patient
the band have become, at least in the context of themselves. Champ
jumps over the thirty minute hurdle and becomes the longest record they’ve put out yet, with more songs nearing the three minute region than ever before. Gone are the mere fragments of songs and in their wake are actual ones. No song here is as harsh and explosive as “Cheer It On” or “Your English is Good”, and songs are even collected enough to recognise the odd Kurt Vonnegut reference, which I dare you to find in the band’s most ethereal (dare I say it) track yet, “Hands Reversed”. What’s great about a track as sad as this is that Tokyo Police Club don’t shed their style to create it, with the drums still loud and showy and with Monks’ vocal work still nasally and snide. The band always seem to pull off the quality they want from their songs on Champ
, and they do it without making any drastic musical changes - it’s hard not to pull a frown when asked to by a band playing this emotively (I forgot to mention the guitar interchanges, which are possibly the biggest heart-breakers here).
This doesn’t mean there aren’t scatterings of the louder Tokyo Police Club, but it’s certainly used as a mean to different ends. “Gone” brings back the ‘badass’ guitar work noticeable from A Lesson In Crime
but it’s again used for a song less explosive and more reflective, and more structured too. It’s a red herring of a song that begins loud and proud in verse, only to dip into a quieter way of life, reverting back to its louder roots again to show what this band have learnt about entering and exiting. For guitar work, “Favourite Colour” is the very same older Tokyo Police Club, but while loud and anthemic in its brief blasts, it doesn’t take over the album and become a standalone track to navigate the album from this point onwards.
The powers that be seem to have control on which way the wind is blowing Champ
, and at times it can sound like Tokyo Police Club are trying to pull off too much. Much like their previous albums, the group refuse to abandon the debt they believe they owe to electronica, with synth taking over “Bambi” rather robotically, and opener “Favourite Food” becoming a mash-up of keyboard noises and guitar lines lost in a song that isn’t big enough for the two of them. There are only four guys in this club, and it’s obvious from Champ
that they can’t do it all – but for the latter part “Bambi” saves itself, and later in “Big Difference” I can see life being breathed into the angrier side of Tokyo Police Club fans will fondly remember. All this song gives us is guitars and drums and a vocalist with a chest to thump, and that’s the side of this club I want to do away with suspense. This is the side that proves they can rock out for three minutes, regardless of their keyboard gimmicks and with a newfound awareness of what they’re making – a record. That’s called calming down, and it’s an asset they needed. Where does a chump like me sign up?