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Tokyo Police Club - Champ

Tokyo Police Club


(Mom + Pop)

Initially it appears easy to peg Tokyo Police Club for another hipster band of the minute, brimming with catchy hooks and bobbing about with youthful buoyancy. These are qualities of many recent records by a slew of recent acts (they will go nameless) who ultimately fail to evince any lasting potency. The more you listen, the more lacking in substance they prove to be. That’s not so with Tokyo Police Club. I’ve been trying to put my finger on what is so special about the Newmarket, Ontario quartet. It has come to me in waves after listening and listening and listening again to the band’s new album, Champ. With each listen, the record got better. Maybe this is the perfect band for the second decade of the 2000s: They’ve learned rightly from the new millennium’s best—the Strokes’ laissez-faire ferocity and throb, as well as the complex, precise, turn-on-a-dime avant-pop of Spoon. At the same time, they manage to stake their own territory: There’s a post-punk dissonance here but it’s always skewered by a poppy edge thick with harmonies and melodic interplay. Further in, I get that while singer/bassist Dave Monks’ honeyed-gravel voice sounds like it could go hoarse at any time, it bears the unmistakable melancholy and joy of an unrelenting if weary romantic. Getting deeper still, it kept coming back to the songs: Tokyo Police Club are masterful at crafting songs and put the attention and detail into each one that so many of their peers don’t. On their second full-length album, Monks, guitarist Josh Hook, keyboardist Graham Wright, and drummer Greg Alsop are aided by the deft touch of producer Rob Schnapf, who—from Guided by Voices to Elliott Smith—has consistently proven his ability to put an unobtrusive sheen on his artists’ work without leaving his own fingerprints all over it. “Favorite Food” makes reflexive shifts between youthful abandon and the grimness of growing up and getting old, swelling into a warm and fractured rock salvo. “Breakneck Speed” is an ace that should be a Top 10 radio hit, if genuine music still counted or radio actually mattered any more. The keyboard-versus-guitar dialectic at work in “Bambi” sets the pace for a story that could be a tale of wasted romantic entanglements or could be a triptych through some child-like fantasy world. The breezy “Gone” has TPC going for a warm-weather vibe like some wonderfully fucked-up crash of reggae meets Beach Boys meets Kraftwerk. “Frankenstein” is nothing short of perfect and utterly infectious abstracted pop. Champ is packed front to back with concise, carefully created songs that are big and epic at one turn, but which still feel like you can hold them in your hands.

donny kutzbach

Tokyo Police Club plays this Sunday, July 25, at Town Ballroom with Freelance Whales and the Arkells.

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