Tokyo Police Club Champ

[Mom & Pop Music; 2010]

Rating: 2.5/5

Styles: power-pop, indie rock
Others: Arctic Monkeys, Tapes ’n Tapes, Conor Oberst

Toronto’s Tokyo Police Club were one of the earlier pioneers of blog buzz, forming in 2005 and grabbing mentions on vapid reality shows like The Hills only a couple of years later; thus their commercial appeal. TPC’s high-energy, anthemic guitar pop may not be overly complicated, nor are their shows unpredictable, but their music is kind of like that old boyfriend you keep going back to: they’re dependable, but not challenging. TPC’s records often fall on the safe side — that is to say, catchy and appropriate for a beer-buzzed summertime BBQ, but that’s about it.

So it’s probably fair to say that TPC’s best work appeared on their sophomore album, 2008’s Elephant Shell. Demonstrating a clear sense for seamlessly transitioning power-emo tunes on a catchy, albeit short, record, TPC were successful in their cohesive, satisfying romp through the indie/alternative park. On their third full-length release, however, the outcome is frankly a lot of build-ups that are quickly followed by a sense of unfulfilled malaise. Of what TPC think they are the “Champs,” I have no idea, as they’re barely living up to their potential. It’s as if they realized their likeness to EVERY OTHER INDIE BAND EVER, brooded over it for a few days, and decided to settle. It’s the same thing people do when they decide to marry that best friend they made an “if I’m not married by 40” pact with.

Champ begins slowly with “Favourite Food,” but kicks quickly into gear halfway through the track, feigning promise. Lead vocalist Dave Monks’ voice hits a few new notes this time around, and much of Champ seems to be placing a heavier focus on Monks’ vocal ability in general. No one’s calling Monks a poor singer; in fact, his hoarse, nasal voice is something that helps set TPC apart from the bulk of garden-variety indie bands. On the other hand, while Monks’ loud, clear vocals will likely satisfy current fans, there’s little else here to keep them invested for very long. After Champ’s promising beginning, it frequently stalls and sputters.

Inconsistency is the touchstone characteristic of Champ. One minute the listener is flying high on the crash-bang sing-along chorus on “Wait Up (Boots of Danger),” and the next minute they’re bored to tears with the tuneless snoozer “Hands Reversed.” Once “8 Gone” chimes in, TPC commit a cardinal sin by succinctly emulating emo standbys Saves The Day (think their shamelessly middling post-adolescent record, In Reverie). Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with Saves The Day, but the members of Tokyo Police Club are not men of the Vagrant cloth.

If you’re going to like indie rock for the sake of it being indie, then Champ has your name written all over it. There’s nothing supremely bad about this record, but there are no surprises either. It’s just — well, there. Champ is like the reality show contestant who’s neither the worst nor the best; they stay on the show through most of the season, but get kicked off as soon as the judges realize they’ve been exposed to the same thing over and over. But Champ is on the show to make friends. It’s not there to win.

Links: Tokyo Police Club - Mom & Pop Music

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