Saturday, July 17, 2010

Tokyo Police Club's "Champ": Aging Gracefully

The best adults are the ones that have some youth on the inside. When they released their frenetic debut EP, A Lesson in Crime, Tokyo Police Club were kids. And then, on their first full-length album, Elephant Shell, they grew up too much too quickly. Now, on their most recent, Champ, released last month, they’ve aged quite gracefully, finding a happy medium between formula and freeform, adulthood and childhood, and/or energy and predictability. In short, this is the LP we’ve been waiting for ever since we first heard the painfully short 15 minutes that made up A Lesson in Crime.

One of TPC’s strong points is its unbridled energy, but this energy is best used sparingly. That’s why their LPs can’t just be lengthened versions of A Lesson in Crime. And while they proved themselves to some extent on their last album, they’ve alleviated any and all doubt that they can write slower songs: “Hands Reversed” is just as good as anything else on the album, and doesn’t feel strained at all, a sensation that can be all too common when energetic bands go for slow.

“Bambi” is a microcosm of the band’s rediscovery of its past self. In classic TPC style, this track turns revolutionarily rough sounds into rational order: it seems impossible to go from the disjointed scratches at the beginning to something that could be even remotely aurally pleasing. But they pull it off anyway. On “Bambi,” the band goes back to what got them here in the first place: their trademark manic upper-fret scraping (a technique that was in notably short supply on Elephant Shell) is finally back. And while vocalist Greg Monks curiously decided not to sing on this track, it’s on the whole nice to hear his unique whine in conjunction with the chewy, nougat center that put the “buzz” in buzz-band just a couple of years ago. Due to Champ, they’re not a buzz-band anymore; they’re grown-ups, but it’s not too hard to tell that they’re still the same old kids.

Joe's grade: B+


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