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Posted on March 24th, 2014 (9:00 am) by Theresa Flanagan

While waiting at a food truck post show, I had a brief chat with John Darnielle this past fall. We talked about how prolific as The Mountain Goats are, at this point the hype has sort of faded. He said he was glad; the hype means absolutely nothing about what's actually good or real music. Tokyo Police Club keyboardist/vocalist Graham Wright questioned, "how much hype there is anymore" surrounding their third full original record Forcefield. His claim was that people weren't even sure if TPC still existed. While it has been a stretch since we've gotten any releases out of the Canadian crew they haven't exactly disappeared off the face of the earth. There have been tours (including a short run with Foster The People",festival appearances, and a collaboration with RAC. Whether that was real or excessive humbleness (or just wishful thinking) we'd say there is still plenty of hype. As such, Tokyo Police Club are facing down the heavily critical scrutiny that inevitably follows.

When Tokyo Police Club hit the music scene in 2006 with their first EP, A Lesson In Crime, three-quarters of the band members were still teenagers. They formed out of the break-up of their former high school band Suburbia, while former member Will Currie went on to form his own band. They hit all the big festivals in 2007, both stateside and over in the UK, pumped out another EP, Smith before buckling down to release Elephant Shell, their first LP, on Saddle Creek Records. The general consensus for it was "not bad, but you can do better." Champ followed it two years later, having seen TPC switch over to Mom+Pop Music and open up their sound a bit more. Forcefield finds them three years down the road with cover compilation Ten Days, Ten Covers, Ten Years as a '00s time capsule under their belts, now in their mid-20s. While the past few years have seen many of their contemporaries pump up the electronics to take center stage, TPC have kept them on the periphery for Forcefield, sticking to familiar grounds. Sticking to their standard about thirty-five minute album length, they've squeezed two less songs than Champ and four less than Elephant Shell into that time frame. For comparison, their first EP was only one track shorter but took less than half as long to play. They have stretched out their songs, most notably on the eight-and-half minute first track "Argentina (Parts I, II, III)." However, Forcefield is still chock-full of the post-punk, power pop, catchy rock that we have always been able to count on Tokyo Police Club for.

The lyrics on the record are appropriately themed for the somewhat throwback style. Tokyo Police Club aren't desperately clinging to their youth, or unconvincingly waxing nostalgic over the good old days. They're coming up on their ten year mark together as this particular band, so who wouldn't expect some reminiscing? In the fuzzy feel good guitar pop, there are hints of another indie pop band that recently released a new record after an extended break, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, but with more of a backbone. TPC were never as buttoned down as SSLYBY, and David Monks has a far more straightforward tone compared to the wistfully winsome Phillip Dickey.

Playing the music they do, Tokyo Police Club may have missed their window to put out an utterly and indisputably brilliant record. But we still have plenty of interest in what they have to say. "Argentina (Parts I, II, III)" is absolutely three distinct sections; the final one being the one you'll find percolating through your head after the fact with its repetition of "so, so, so, so much nicer." That is, until you hit the poppy chorus of "Hot Tonight," which is impossible not to bop along with. TPC used to draw a lot of comparisons to The Strokes, and "Hot Tonight" is a goofy, poppy, not-taking-itself-too-seriously reminder of why with its softer, more meandering choruses building up to the pump up chorus. That cover compilation includes the band's take on Jimmy Eat World's "Sweetness," and on "Miserable," Monks seems to take a few vocal cues from Jim Adkins. In spite of its title, the track is unstoppably upbeat. "Gonna Be Ready" is an absolute pop punk throwback ballad with heavy tinges of (sorry, but) The All-American Rejects, minus Tyson Ritter's whine.

"Beaches" starts out low-key and a tad melancholy, but TPC refuse to keep things tamped down for too long. The slowed down verses and jumped up choruses are a little formulaic, but so damn catchy all the same. The lazy way that "Toy Guns" rolls out is absolutely addictive, before the record hits the guttural bass opening of "Tunnel Vision." They have returned to foot tapping, head bopping territory with this one, reversing the flow to faster verses and drawn out choruses. "Through The Wire" is one you're more likely to sway along to rather than tap, as the lyrics outline a relationship in this technological age. "Feel The Effect" doesn't get off to the strongest start, but it builds a bit as it goes.

Forcefield is far from perfect, but there are plenty of bright spots. We're just glad Toko Police Club are back with new music, because it means they're heading back out on tour this summer with Geographer and Said The Whale. Check out their April and May tour dates here, and check out the record streaming via The New York Times. Forcefield is out March 25 on Mom+Pop.

Track List:

  1. Argentina (Parts I, II, III)
  2. Hot Tonight
  3. Miserable
  4. Gonna Be Ready
  5. Beaches
  6. Toy Guns
  7. Tunnel Vision
  8. Through The Wire
  9. Feel The Effect
Tokyo Police Club: Forcefield
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

70 / 100
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