Tokyo Police Club can be summarized in two words: fast and catchy. The band makes its living on being a nonstop adrenaline rush and is a key cog in the blossoming Canadian scene that already boasts rock heavyweights such as Broken Social Scene, Wolf Parade and the Arcade Fire.
The main thing the group lacks to really cement its status amongst the band’s fellow Canucks is, well, songs. Coming into its new record, the group’s discography is so short that catching one of its energetic gigs often means you will hear every one of its songs. Especially after its heavily touted “A Lesson in Crime” came out in 2006, there has been very little for the MySpace generation to sink their teeth into after helping the band blow up with constant Internet hype. Now, with all of the expectations, the club is back with its megaphones handy to pump out its new record, “Elephant Shell.”
“Centennial” opens the new batch with Dave Monks singing as urgently as ever. The song sneaks up on you, which is surprising for a song by these guys. “In a Cave” rushes past next, pulsating with a bouncy bassline. Monks sings “All my hair grows in / Wrinkles leave my skin,” as if the realization of growing up is too much. The band thrives on its youthful spunkiness, and throughout the song it sounds like it’s something it never wants to lose.
Josh Hook’s pumping guitar drives in “Graves” and hooks you in instantly. It is followed by “Juno,” with a smirking Monks shrugging off stubborn know-it-all lyrics. “Tessellate” picks up quickly after that restrained track, a dance-y tune that sounds something like an ad for “The Office.” Hook plucks off notes that are replaced by some fun piano chords. The guitar and piano switch off while the drums and hand claps power through the rest of the song.
“Sixties Remake” jump-starts with signature TPC reverb. The verse paces through only to let the guitar come back to grab you by the throat. “The Harrowing Adventures Of…” loosens the grip, with a gentle xylophone and an acoustic guitar marching the track along. This beautiful tune really captures what we haven’t heard from a group that has thus far given us a lot of one thing. This song contains the elements that are avoided in its previous work; from sweeping strings to controlled percussions.
“Nursery Academy” returns to the familiar with the drums thumping in only to be followed by layers of sound by every member in the band. This goes on until they reach a zenith, only to start over again. The next track clocks in over three minutes, which is a rarity. “Your English is Good” is quick throughout with the same quiet/loud dynamic used in most of their songs. However, the chorus is remarkably fresh. Occasionally Monks reflects and sings a usual theme, “You don’t have to change / The future is ours.”
Next up is “Listen to the Math,” a song that shows another point of maturity for the quartet. It starts off like many TPC tracks, but it is very subdued instead of insisting to push the envelope. Slow arpeggios follow the verse and then octaves hold themselves back from transforming a steady smooth song to what it doesn’t need to become. This song is a step forward for a band that is frequently labeled as one-dimensional. “The Baskervilles” goes back to the customary formula to close the record, just as a reminder of what the band does so well.
Tokyo Police Club retains the Orwellian urgency that has made it so popular while slowly, but surely, expanding its repertoire. “Elephant Shell” moves at a blistering pace just like everything else the group has done, but the songs are filled with nothing but quality and instant gratification.
For an LP that was two years in the making, it doesn’t even get to the half-hour mark before it abruptly ends. Its fans are left once again wishing another TPC record didn’t end so soon. But that’s definitely better than thinking it didn’t end soon enough.