Snappy Canadian indie rockers find that a rest can be good for a change. Bowery Ballroom, New York (April 20)
In the current “In Crisis!” music industry climate, where the buzz around bands is capitalised upon within hours, underwhelming albums are rushed out in minutes and careers are over in seconds, the Tokyo Police Club story is something of an anomaly. It was way back in early 2006 that the 16 minutes of eight-track debut mini-album ‘A Lesson In Crime’ were – as they say – the talk of the blogs, but since then the Canadians have been lying a little low, taking a step back, letting things subside. They’ve been gigging their arses off, certainly, but only last week did ‘Elephant Shell’, their equally succinct full-length debut (11 songs, 28 minutes), slip out. Even factoring in the stop-gap ‘Smith’ EP, that’s barely half an hour of music in two years. So is this a case of too little, too late?
Well, actually, no. The warm reception they receive from a rammed-to-the rafters Bowery (far from the only sold-out date on their current North American tour, too) suggests all that long-ago-garnered cyberspace love has endured. They ask the audience to clap along and the audience complies; singing bassist Dave Monks tells a story of how they had all their merchandise confiscated at customs and have spent the hours prior to the show hand-making T-shirts, and everyone in the room audibly sympathises. And the songs – almost insanely brief, all of them ending long before it feels like they should – are as magical as they are succinct.
What Tokyo Police Club have spent all that time doing, it seems, is some serious self-editing. On record, the new likes of ‘In A Cave’ and single ‘Your English Is Good’ are impossibly well-drilled, every instrument providing a hook at all times. They’ve been compared a lot to The Strokes and, while they are far from copyists, in the way that their sleek, Cars-esque new wave pop abhors the thought of wasting even a split second, they are similar. In the flesh, too, the likes of (now very) oldie ‘Nature Of The Experiment’ and ‘Elephant Shell’ highpoint ‘Juno’ do more than just retain all their intricacies – all their melodic subtlety is substantially augmented by the sight of keyboard player Graham Wright’s freaky dancing.
By the time they return – for an encore of ‘Cheer It On’, their point is proved. Any band currently in the glare of incessant hype should take note: there’s no harm in stepping back, in letting people forget about you for a little bit, in taking your time to deliver exactly what you want to, no matter how brief a vision it might be. The vaguely curious hipster types who littered their shows when they first surfaced may have departed. Yet on this showing at least, Tokyo Police Club’s stay in the hearts of those who have remained patient with them will be much, much longer than the duration of their songs.