Tokyo Police Club - Elephant Shell
Record Label: Saddle Creek Records
Release Date: April 22, 2008
Those who have been paying attention to the indie scene in the past few years are probably well aquainted with the fresh-faced Newmarket, Ontario based quartet Tokyo Police Club. Having formed in 2005, the band quickly accumulated enough material to release their debut EP A Lesson In Crime on the Toronto indie label Paperbag Records, which went on to sell over 30,000 records while garnering critical acclaim from Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Blender, and The New York Times. By 2007, the young band not only played numerous club gigs, but they cut their teeth on the festival circle as well playing Bumbershoot, Coachella, and Lollapalooza to name a few. Considering these guys did not start learning to really play together until their senior year of high school, I would say this ranks up there as one of the fastest ascents up the indie ladder from a ragtag band playing in the garage to seasoned band on indie powerhouse Saddle Creek.
Elephant Shell is the band’s debut full-length effort that critics and fans alike have been eagerly anticipating after the sixteen minute A Lesson In Crime and even shorter Smith EP left them begging for more. “Centennial” is a short, two minute exercise in extremely catchy and angular post-punk that serves as the perfect introduction to the band for those who have only now stumbled upon their music. “In A Cave” is a more subtle track with much darker tone and serves as a fitting soundtrack to a night of milling about the city at night, hopping between clubs. Although most of the songs on Elephant Shell are likely to burrow their way into your subconscious through the frenetic energy of the buzzing guitars and propulsive drum beats, it is the vocal styling of David Monks and the shouted backing vocals during the chorus that will make you want to dance and sing along.
Kudos to whoever decided on “Tessellate” as the album’s first single. Leading off with flourishing keys, a punching drum beat, and well placed hand claps (seriously, who does not love handclaps?), “Tessellate” is one of the catchiest songs I have come across this year. This track finds the band relying a little less on the quirky, angular guitar styling of their previous work and instead focusing on their well formed pop sensibilities, which will have you singing and clapping along in no time. “Sixties Remake” is a return to form with noisy guitar squalls, tight drumming, and Monks’ voice even displays a touch of grittiness towards the end of the track. “The Harrowing Adventures Of…” is the biggest curveball of Elephant Shell. Trading in their high octane energy and post-punk leanings, the band creates an expansive track led by acoustic guitar and fleshed out with xylophone, piano, and string accompaniment. However, just as quick as the band expresses a more reserved side, they switch back to party mode with the raucous party-pop of “Your English Is Good”. If “The Harrowing Adventures Of…” makes the statement that the band can step outside of the post-punk box, “Your English Is Good” let’s you know that they also just want to have a good time and get you to hit up the dance floor with reckless abandon.
Tokyo Police Club rip through their eleven track debut in less than a half hour, eliminating the technical wankery that weighs down some more recent releases, and instead goes straight for the jugular with unbridled energy. While Tokyo Police Club may take some heat for largely sticking to the post-punk blueprint of A Lesson In Crime, there are a few tracks (“The Harrowing Adventures Of…” and “Your English Is Good”) that find the band stretching their creative muscles. The band has obviously matured in their approach to their songwriting, but this is only the beginning and there is plenty of room for growth. Elephant Shell is filled from top to bottom with infectious melodies and hooks galore and its immediacy will prevent it from dragging along or wearing out too quickly. Elephant Shell is a shining debut album that will only continue to bring Tokyo Police Club more fans and possibly a more wide spread popularity.