It’s kind of hard to not feel like a parent sometimes when listening to music. Seeing bands grow up is an interesting thing, and for Tokyo Police Club, it’s been a fascinating ride. While a guest spot on Desperate Housewives would assume a greater level of fame, they never could seem to gather the momentum that elders like Bloc Party could.
A Lesson In Crime was a viscous debut EP, but not without it’s charm. As stuttered guitar lines and poppy basslines clashed on top of the cutest of synths, the most adolescent of voices was screaming with a colourful imagination that was rare and unique. Opening lines such as “Do your neighbour a favour, collect their morning paper,” were startling in their trivial subject matter, but it was allowed due to frontman Dave Monks’ childish demeanour. Their first LP Elephant Shell was divisive, finding Monks caught in a seemingly repeating melody, and the rawness that intoxicated so many on A Lesson In Crime, was now as buffered and polished as a brand new Prius. It wasn’t the album that many had hoped for, but by the same token, it was an admirable effort. It therefore wasn’t really hard to remain skeptical upon hearing of sophomore.
Champ finds Tokyo Police Club taking their time, and making note of what makes the finer moments in their world of quick-jab rock, and equally as importantly, when to utilise them. Melody plays a more important part than ever. While Dave Monks certainly hasn’t quite matured yet, still childishly reflecting about school yard traumas, “at the movies drunk and young, double knots that came undone,” he’s coming along. The lyrical content and stylings of Dave Monks have always been remarkably unique, being the only person to have written both a Mother’s Day present song about being buried next to their mom, and another of the bleak robot-operated future that awaited us in 2009. Monks no longer discusses robberies, neighbours newspapers and those robots like A Lesson In Crime, but rather continues from Elephant Shell‘s toddler like imagination, with lines “Under our bed, a monster lives, we filled his teeth with superglue and paperclips” practically dousing our nostalgias in kerosene.
Collectively, the 35 minute blockbuster, is simply relieving, as the young Canadians go mining for the element that made them so loveable to us in the first place. Lead single “Breakneck Speed” builds upon A Lesson In Crime‘s “Nature of the Experiment,” with the song carefully pacing itself, yet still being graceful enough to allow room for a number of ludicrously catchy melodies. A nice pleasantry of Champ is the surprise to see Tokyo Police Club exploring new space, sonically. “Hands Reversed” centres itself around a riff that sounds too complex to fit amongst anything in their discography, but it eventually finds a comfortable enough place. A wider turning circle sees opener “Favourite Food” making use of stuttered samples being excentuated by the most captivating of Monks melodic and acoustic moments yet.
It’s a genuine development for Tokyo Police Club, but it’s not without its faults. I’m not sure who told them that they were beholden to being some NME electro-pop band, but “Not Sick” is grating on various levels, while “Bambi” and “Frankenstein” show the more appropriate evolution of these synthesised tendencies.
Tokyo Police Club recognise appropriate, because Champ is kind of like the little album that could. It doesn’t captivate the hottest girl in school, but it entices the moral victory of that nerdy girl who never talks to you. At moments, it plays like a children’s story book, and if this is the intention of Monks and crew (“I always skip the words because the pictures are so bright and loud”), then they’ve gloriously succeeded.