Tokyo Police Club – Champ
As opening salvos go, Tokyo Police Club’s A Lesson In Crime EP was as twitchy and raw as they come when it arrived back in 2006. It was that year’s Modern Age, and arriving as it did just months after The Strokes first began to show their age on the cumbersome First Impressions Of Earth, the Canadian teens seemed the perfect candidates to take up the mantle of Casablancas and co. Indeed, A Lesson In Crime still sounds urgent, thrilling and downright brilliant to these ears today; which makes it all the more upsetting to report that the Tokyo Police Club of 2010 is a far tamer creature than that which burst onto the then-nascent blogosphere five years ago.
Admittedly things did look to be heading this way when the band’s first full-length outing turned out to be A Lesson In Crime-lite. But this writer has always retained a bit of a soft spot for Elephant Shell, and felt it got a tougher ride than it deserved when released in mid-’08. Whatever it lacked in ballsy attitude, it sure made up for in catchy tunes. Regrettably, though, TPC have kept maturing at such a rate that album number two, Champ, is a bore. For a band that once appeared on Desperate Housewives, the Torontonian quartet now looks in serious danger of turning into housewives’ favourites.
They've not gone the way of Kings Of Leon or anything, looking to fill stadia while phoning-in albums and avoiding the wrath of incontinent pigeons. Rather, the trouble is that the band don’t actually seem to have gone anywhere at all. You have to wait four songs here for any sort of spunk, and even then 'Wait Up (Boots Of Danger)' is really just whiny alt. rock-by-numbers. It takes five more tracks for the next sign of life on the equally unremarkable 'Big Difference.' The intervening tracks see the band veering from the synth-assisted ‘Bambi’ – which, in truth, sounds like watered-down filler from Julian Casablancas’ recent solo LP – to actually offering a glimmer of hope on the sweet-as-hell 'Hands Reversed'. The latter is by far the slowest number on Champ, and also easily its best, showing just how affecting Dave Monks’ vocals can be. As moving as it is, though, it's sadly let down by everything around it.
If one song sums up where Tokyo Police Club stand after Champ, it's the all-too-fittingly titled 'End Of A Spark': plain amateurish and instantly forgettable, it sounds like something a bunch of dropouts might write in their parents' garage. That's one bizarre notion for a band who, as kids, emerged as potential world-beaters.