A winning do-over The blog-bait now known as Tokyo Police Club used to be called Suburbia, a more honest (if inelegant) reflection of their ingenuous post-punk/emo blend. The band’s 2006 breakout EP, A Lesson in Crime, distilled twitchy synths and guitars into two-minute blasts of hormones and naiveté, but on 2008 LP Elephant Shell, they handcuffed themselves by aiming for the kind of layered, measured album favored by their new label, Saddle Creek—a wannabe grownup album from a group that thrived on juvenilia. Their sophomore LP, the optimistically titled Champ, opens promisingly with the lean, mean “Favorite Food,” on which blown-out fuzz and shrilling organs snowball into an incandescent rock jitter, as Dave Monks’ warm, approachable voice spins out a self-conscious suburban fantasy of bandaged knees and melting sugar.
In Internet years, Tokyo Police Club are just about ready for retirement. As a group of underage buddies from the Toronto suburbs, their antsy take on post-Strokes rock was an easy upload for music blogs upon the 2006 release of their snappy A Lesson in Crime EP. Back then, their chances of living beyond the next Hype Machine cycle was anyone's guess, and any notions of longevity seemed moot for a band that preferred to wrap things up around the two-minute mark.
‘I’m not just saying this because I’m from Toronto – I feel these kids are the most exciting band on the planet right now.’ So gushed a fan on this site in early ’07, thoroughly dosed up on a potent hit of Tokyo Police Club’s pint-sized EP A Lesson in Crime. And the swooning didn’t stop with the Torontonians. Or even with the cool kids.
If music was solely about charm, Tokyo Police Club would have no trouble being everyone’s favorite band. Their a fresh-faced group of Canadian twenty-somethings who, thanks to a stint opening for Weezer and a knack for touring American universities, have developed quite a following of yuppie-ish quasi-hipsters and lit-major bound youngsters. They have all the enthusiasm (and all the good looks) for kids to get excited about – I saw them rock an afternoon festival set with the same amount of energy a touring-machine headliner would be contractually obliged to exert, and by the end, frontman Dave Monks pulled out a secluded digital camera to snap a shot of the modest, but massively appreciative crowd that had gathered.
For four guys in their 20s, Tokyo Police Club sure lays the nostalgia on thick. Champ‘s lead single, “Breakneck Speed,” makes it easy to imagine singer David Monk hovering over his high school yearbook as he reminisces: “I remember when our voices used to sound the same/Now we just translate,” he croons, later detouring through “super fun at the movies drunk and young” and “pictures so bright and loud, better off than now. ” The rest of the band sounds nostalgic too, borrowing from emo mainstays like Jimmy Eat World and Cursive and once-trendy post-punk acts like Interpol and the Strokes to create their own spazzy update on the sound of the early-aughts indie-rock scene, presumably the soundtrack to whatever youthful hijinks Monk is looking back on.
Before the ink even dried on Tokyo Police Club's Saddle Creek contract in 2007, you had to know the band members were going to set their shop up firmly in the self-reflective emo territory of their sound. While the resulting LP, Elephant Shell, may have not garnished the reams of praise that greeted the band’s debut EP, Lesson in Crime -- but then again, not many albums could -- it was still a little solid record. The transition to Gossip Girl-ready bookish introspection might not have been the most-wanted one, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any band in Tokyo Police Club’s arena that would have the balls to name one of their songs “Tessellate” and to turn the phrase “broken hearts tessellate tonight” into a rallying cry.
Tokyo Police Club make some adjustments to tempo, mood, and song length on this sophomore album, released two years after the group’s Elephant Shell debut. The danceable indie rock that helped launch Tokyo Police Club’s career hasn’t been entirely abandoned, but it does take the back seat during this midtempo ride, which seems less interested in working up a sweat than exploring new directions. “Bambi” is one of the only songs to kill two birds with one stone; kinetic and tuneful, it also experiments with electronic keyboard effects, marking one of the few instances in which Tokyo Police Club challenge themselves without losing sight of their strengths.
Toronto’s Tokyo Police Club were one of the earlier pioneers of blog buzz, forming in 2005 and grabbing mentions on vapid reality shows like The Hills only a couple of years later; thus their commercial appeal. TPC’s high-energy, anthemic guitar pop may not be overly complicated, nor are their shows unpredictable, but their music is kind of like that old boyfriend you keep going back to: they’re dependable, but not challenging. TPC’s records often fall on the safe side — that is to say, catchy and appropriate for a beer-buzzed summertime BBQ, but that’s about it.