Release Date: Mar 25, 2014
Record label: Mom + Pop Music
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Tokyo Police Club frontman Dave Monks recently said "It just gets easier to be yourself as you get older. " This encapsulates how the band approached making a new album: the Newmarket, ON quartet took a note from their success and decided to cut themselves off from outside noise to make something all their own. This purer product is Forcefield, a record that rewrites the book of Tokyo Police Club by trading in the ambitious indie-rock of Champ for a tight, clean and radio-ready aesthetic.
Review Summary: If it ain't brokeNever say that Tokyo Police Club has been a band to play with their listener’s expectations. For all shock that fans may feel when they fire up Forcefield with the sounds of three-part suite “Argentina,” a song that is nearly three times as long as anything in the band’s catalog, it’s a fleeting feeling. That “Argentina” is one song and not three doesn’t really mean anything – this is hardly the group’s foray into orchestral prog.
Take a time machine back 10 years. Tokyo Police Club's Forcefield would have fit right in. Pop music fiends would stick the lead single, "Hot Tonight," on their mix CDs, right between Plain White T's' "Hey There Delilah" and The Strokes' "12:51." It's like we've traveled to 2004, we're still using MP3 CD players and some of the cool kids even have iPods.
The geeky, anxious punk-pop ditties that filled Tokyo Police Club's 2008 debut, Elephant Shell, seemed positively quaint compared to the epic, often histrionic rock anthems bands like the Killers and Bloc Party had been churning out. That sense of self-effacement is also what makes Tokyo Police Club easier to love: In a genre that prizes deadpanned apathy and bland grandiosity, or a combination of both if you're the National, the band's grinning and strangely irreverent sincerity is an enduring and weird bright spot in the post-punk revival. Forcefield serves as a kind of regroup following the band's low-key (and mostly forgettable) sophomore effort, Champ.
Tokyo Police Club took their time delivering the follow-up to their heart-on-sleeve second album, Champ. Though they began writing songs in 2011, Forcefield didn't arrive for another three years; during that time, they also recorded Ten Days, Ten Covers, Ten Years, which found them reworking a decade's worth of songs from artists ranging from Moby to Miley Cyrus in quick succession. That fondness for pop surfaces in these songs, which are among the band's most crafted in a number of ways.
The basic idea of a force field is one of protection. A barrier, a wall, a shield. In the case of plucky Canadians Tokyo Police Club, how does their Forcefield fit? At first glance, you may consider the title of their third record a defence mechanism of sorts, coming as it does after the critical shoulder-shrug that met full-length debut Elephant Shell and 2010's better-received yet relatively straightforward Champ.
It’s been almost four years since Tokyo Police Club’s last long player – the moderately well received Champ from 2010 – and by all accounts Forcefield has proven to be anything but an easy next step, the album finally arriving after some serious writer’s block issues. After it became clear that things were not so rosy in the creative department for the Canadians the band scattered, with members relocating to different parts of America in search of inspiration and time away from the group collective. Seemingly revitalised, the power-pop quartet returned to studio recording in 2013 and subsequently shared an eight minute epic towards the end of the year, Argentina (Pt I, II & III), and it’s this impressive piece that gloriously opens Forcefield.
David Monks rarely sees further than his next crush, and the four years since Tokyo Police Club's last album have given their frontman ample time to wonder if there’s anyone out there for him. “Enough to fill a room? Enough to fill a mall?” he asks rhetorically on “Argentina (Pts., I, II, III)”, the leadoff track from the Canadian quartet’s third LP Forcefield. Well, we can start out by narrowing it down to an estimate of 300,000.
The concept of a force field can be applied in different forms, all of them equally impenetrable to the casual observer. It’s simple to understand in a general sense, though. And instead of delving into its scientific complexities songwriter Dave Monks reduces it to a single applicable thought - he wants to shield himself from the hurt of a past relationship to safeguard himself against those emotions that are too hard to bear.
After the initial hype-whirl labelled them the “Canadian Strokes”, it’s admirable that Ontario’s Tokyo Police Club have survived long enough to release their fourth album. The trouble is they still sound too much like, well, like the Canadian Strokes, although nowhere near as good as that moniker suggests. They’re still likeable, with chirpy vocalist/bassist David Monks sounding like he’s singing through a grin the size of a melon slice (hardly something you could say about Julian Casablancas) and highlight ‘Hot Tonight’ shows they occasionally have the chops to match the New Yorkers.
‘Forcefield’ may as well be titled ‘curveball’: anyone expecting the brash, hyperactive, “your English is good!”-yelling Tokyo Police Club of yore is best looking away immediately. This, the Canadian quartet’s third full length (ignoring 2011’s ‘Ten Songs…’ covers project) just isn’t that band.At a guess, bar playing other people’s songs, since the release of 2010’s ‘Champ’, the Ontario gang have been hard at work listening to a lot of Phoenix alongside honing their skills. Because much of ‘Forcefield’ sounds just like it could’ve been made by Thomas Mars and pals.
Tokyo Police Club's third album, their first in four years, is the Toronto band's poppiest to date. Clocking in at nearly nine minutes, opening track Argentina meanders around a catchy melody, using language tricks like chanting "dark" in one pre-chorus and then "bright" in another. Then there's the single Hot Tonight, all guitar rock and harmonizing "woos," showcasing the new pop-star polish of David Monks's nasal voice.
At the start of Forcefield, Tokyo Police Club seems like a band aware that it has been four years since its last record. The album opens with “Argentina (Parts I, II, III)”, a huge eight-minute-plus blast of polished rock music. It’s not quite as movement based as its titular “parts” suggests, but therein lies its greatness. It’s a song that builds on hard-chugging power chords and propulsive drums and yearning vocals and it never lets up.
Canadian collective Tokyo Police Club have spent their previous body of work (two LPs and two EPs) painstakingly crafting a signature sound. It drew a little bit from rock and a little bit from post-punk, and it was unmistakably, completely theirs, a kind of touchstone for seemingly cool and collected college kids who were really just tangled balls of emotion. No other rock song had the same blueprint as “Sixties Remake” from 2008’s Elephant Shell, and there are few songs that I have loved quite as much as “Breakneck Speed” from 2010’s Champ.
Tokyo Police Club burst out of the gate in 2006 with A Lesson In Crime, a nearly perfect 16 minutes of sharp, melodic indie-rock that was smarter and more fun than a new band had any real right to be. Since then, the Canadians seem to have had a little trouble defining themselves, maturing perhaps too quickly with the still-great debut full-length Elephant Shell in 2008, but finding slightly diminishing returns on 2010’s Champ, which was solid, but sort of adrift in the space between spunk and slickness. Album three, Forcefield, brings with it a more deliberate sort of polish; it’s as if the band’s studio skill—it’s produced by Doug Boehm and the band’s own singer-guitarist David Monks—has caught up to its sonic desires.
In the three years spent writing their latest album, Tokyo Police Club have seen wave after wave of musical trends pass them by. Yet the Canadian band have never been ones to pander to musical vogue, so says vocalist and bass player David Monks: “There was certainly a lot of pressure to take the music somewhere new… but in the end we blocked all that out and followed our instincts.” Fair play you might say, stick to your guns, do what you do best, if it ain’t broke and all that. After all, there’s nothing more uncomely than the sight of a band licking the arse of a popular fad.
Skrillex, Recess Man, I feel old. Is this what the kids are listening to these days? (I’m 22.) There’s something tremendously uninspiring about so-called “brostep,” even distasteful – its desecration of the U.K. bass cultures to which it owes its existence, maybe, or a lack of subtlety so pronounced it’s almost aggressive. I’ve read eloquent defenses of the big “drop” as the postmodern EDM equivalent of a classic rock guitar solo, which makes sense but doesn’t really redeem decades of bad guitar solos, if you know what I mean.