Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Album Review: Tokyo Police Club - Champ (2010)

When I sit down and think about it, Tokyo Police Club really changed how I thought about music, along with all my other favorites that brought me out of my classic-psychedelic-rock phase that had dominated my early teen years. A Lesson In Crime EP was AMAZING, not only for a young boy obsessed with Pink Floyd, but anyone who likes music. Highly praised by the "indie rock" community, A Lesson In Crime featured quick songs with catchy beats, a strangely depressed tone, and smart, slightly story driven lyrics. Back then lead vocalist and bassist Dave Monks had a strained, yelp driven, angst ridden voice perfect for the subject matter. With that said, A Lesson In Crime EP is still one of my most listened to pieces of music on my iPod, finding it's way into my heart on a constant basis.

Jump four years, one EP, and one LP later, and Tokyo Police Club have just released their new effort, Champ. Now, without going into history too much, it's safe to say that their first full length Elephant Shell disappointed critics, fans, and even me with it's more simplistic "indie rock" flavor, but at the same time, I listen to it almost as much as A Lesson in Crime, so my disappointment was minor and temporary. Champ might be in the same flavor as Elephant Shell, but it does its job much better. The album has a typical feel, shedding it's roots of hand-claps and chants from A Lesson in Crime, but it manages to add on new electronic elements and a different vocal style from Dave Monks that adds to where Elephant Shell faltered.

The album kicks off in a strange way for sure, the first song, Favorite Food is a slow, almost acoustic piece, with starting off lyrics like; "With a heart attack on your plate/ you were looking back on your days..." you can't be totally sure that Champ will be what you wanted from Tokyo Police Club will deliver on their style of fast, fun, "indie rock" we love from them, but by the end of Favorite Food, and into Favorite Colour, you start to feel the upswing. After the build up, TPC throws on the best tracks of the album, Breakneck Speed and Wait Up (Boots of Danger), two back-to-back classic TPC songs in the vein of singles like Tessellate and Graves. Breakneck Speed was the first track I got to hear off Champ, and it's definitely my favorite, showing off perfect execution as far as mixing catchy bass, great lulls for upturns, and fantastic lyrics such as "Spell it out/ I always skip the words/ because all the pictures are so bright and loud" Here we get to see a new element in Dave Monks' slightly monotone voice, in some places where he should punctuate the music by raising his voice, he actually will lower it into a bass tone, which adds a dynamic to the music telling you that you aren't hearing the same, boring "indie rock".

If I think about Champ I definitely picture a roller coaster, with ups and downs, each song leads to another hill or climb to the next exciting song, and thats where the problem in Champ lies, while you are waiting for that next electrifying fix, you ignore the slow songs like Hands Reversed and may even miss the end song Frankenstein, all together. They are certainly not slow depressing songs possibly seen by The National or Antlers, but they definitely are a slowdown when compared to my favorite new Summer jam form the album, Gone.

The problem that Champ has is almost the same as the one in Elephant Shell, Tokyo Police Club is a band that kicks ass at EP's because they are full of track-after-track of fast paced excitement, but in LP's, there is a need for slower songs, and those songs take away from YOUR fun. It really isn't TPC's fault, it's the album system in a way, possibly if they regularly released EP's instead of full length albums, we'd get the amazing work we want without any fluff, but then we'd complain that they should put out an album already!

So, at it's basic core Champ is a great album if you're say, on a road trip to the beach, or having a party at your house, because it's as much of a Summer Jam as Summer Jams can be, and as long as you don't want TOO much, you will get your kicks out of Champ. It fits in with a tone sustained by a cool breeze, friends, laughter, and carelessness, as much as it pains me to say it. I really wanted a lot from Champ, a return to my early teenage love for the band would have been the easiest way to put it. But to say that Champ is a disappointment isn't easy, or really possible to say, because it isn't, it's just a different flavor debuted from our friends, Tokyo Police Club.
Album Rating: 8.5 / 10

- Matt Galey

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