Tokyo Police Club

Tokyo Police Club, despite the misguiding name is a(nother) young Canadian band.
This time around the basement where everything started is settled in Newmarket, Ontario.

I am not navigating into Canadian’s chamber pop, too baroque to fit these hot summer days, let’s sail cooler waters with an indie-pop band as fresh as a lager on the edge of a swimming pool.

A well known modern tale.
A bright start, endless local live acts, being noted by a small label which published a couple of well received EPs. Some festivals both sides of the pond book them and people starts to check them up. Songs stream, legally or illegally, on-line and their name emerges from the bulk of indie acts well supported by endless touring.
Their first LP Elephant shell is out, excellent reviews keep the tour up and running.
What else could a group of friends dream if not travelling the world being paid to play their music?

A music that merges several contemporary influences spinning around The Strokes, firmly at the centre of their inspiration. Albert Hammond Jr. direct guitar riffs have been well studied and with the songs starting – growing – peaking and closing within a couple of minutes you don’t have time to get bored, especially if such pure indie delight entertains you midway through.

With the guitar hooks (funnily enough offered by Josh Hook, the guitarist!) travelling at the speed of light; to the solid beat of Greg Alsop, one of the best young drummers around; with the incessant bass of David Monks, who also sings, fits with dedicate precision the synth sound of Graham Wright to remind everyone that we are here to have fun.

Those two minutes are the essence of rock for today’s students. We’re not talking Ramones or any American punk’n’roll, the world has changed.
Apparently there is no more space for frills, distractions and intrusions. No fancy dresses or heavy make-up. Neither drugs nor rock’n’roll damnation to disturb their clean image of college students.

The nerdy look of Graham Wright and his funny pose while playing, bent over his keyboard, has been used by some reviewers to put this band together with the “nerds revenge” trend lead by the Decemberists and the Billboard indie stars Death Cab for Cuties.
It seems to be a look that pays out beyond Pitchfork, judging from the adoring girls on the front rows. Tokyo Police Club must be enjoying very exciting after-show parties.

If the music fits more with teenage fun there is a deeper twist on the balance of sounds and noise and they must be credited for profound lyrics. In this perspective the comparison with Death Cab and such big names makes more sense.

It must be e-mailing, blogging and internet boom in the last 10 years to have brought more and more people to compose inspired texts.
Back to the 80s most teenagers picked up pen and paper to write, only when forced by a severe language professor, then back home time was spent playing with friends.
A decade after, most of youngsters spend hours everyday e-mailing to virtual friends, blogging and updating myspace profiles. It may be one of my hyperboles but I am convinced that with such exercise the e-generation is much more skilled than their parents on writing and this reflects on the very good lyrics appearing nowadays compared to the non-sense verses you could find in most of pop music until few years ago.
I am thinking not only of explicit literate acts as The National, British Sea Power or iLiKETRAiNS but indie band as The Enemy have been plauded by the likes of Billy Bragg and The Manics and the “Arctic Monkey” Alex Turner was honoured of a lyrics booklet on the Guardian “great lyricist” series together with rock poets as Morrissey, Patti Smith, Dylan, Springsteen and Leonard Cohen.

Monks singing is clearly still influenced by his heroes, I cannot avoid thinking of Morrissey listening to In a cave, the best example of the Smiths meeting the Strokes ever recorded

“I threw darts at a spinning globe
Swapping out passport photos
I walk west to the setting sun
Every single step, I grow
Another second young

All my hair grows in
Wrinkles leave my skin
But still, don’t fade
I’ll be back again when the tide is in some day

I don’t know who else to ask
Sitting in the dark, filling an empty glass
Stained my teeth with more red wine
I’m a romantic
But never pearly white

All my hair grows in
Wrinkles leave my skin
But still, don’t fade
I’ll be back again when the tide is in some day

Elephant shell,
You’re my cave and I’ve been hiding out
Will you tell me a little bit about
A bit about yourself?”

[In a cave – Elephant Shell LP]

You may not agree with me, but when he sings “…and it comes easy” on Box his intonation is strikingly similar of Pete Doherty’s voice played on a riff that the Strokes could kill for.

“There’s a good chance we won’t make it to the big dance
They all owe us kisses for two
So if I may, I will take the first steps
And say I feel like drowning at the end of the month
(And the world is warm, so it blows out
And the box is wet, so it falls out
And the ice is cold, but it won’t melt)
‘Cause I am a fake, who sticks to his guns
It’s what I know son
And it comes easy to a liar like me
Oh, Hey! And it comes easy…

Colours are bleeding into grey
And though you’re feeling down
Baby I want to get down with you
Now if I can say you would look fine
In a frame on my bedroom wall
‘Cause i am a fake who sticks to his guns
And lets the bitches run
And it comes easy to a scumbag like me…”

[Box – Smith EP]

I need your help to tell me which voice I have on the tip of my tongue listening to Tessellate.
There is still quite a lot space to improve and define a personal style, but Tokyo Police Club are without doubts one of the best young band I have came across in months, with a solid set of songs that flows fluently during the sixty minutes of their vigorous live show.

If you are in your cheery mood, get a lager from the fridge and give them a listen, here on their [myspace] [website].

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Photo tip

Just few days after Tokyo Police Club gig, Cambridge Barfly, open for less than a year, announced its closure.
The Barfly circuit is probably the best place in UK where you have chances to get the best emerging bands live. A group that manages a bunch of small and cool venues in most of the cities and in the biggest university towns.
It guarantees bands a proper circuit for their tour buses, filling that gap that exists from the 30 friends of a pub backroom to the proper rock theatres for a thousand.

Watching gigs together with 200 people is probably my favourite way to experience live rock music.

Photographing gigs in the same situation is probably the worst.
Usually these venues don’t have a proper press pit and are crowded enough to leave you squeezed and constrained. The usual struggle to the front ends up realizing the lighting is awful and the stage has some oddities.
In the case of Cambridge Barfly a column right in the middle. It splits the platform and your compositions in two perfect halves!

A good opportunity to get some close ups or a patient waiting if, in a rare moment, the column makes sense for the composition.
On the positive side you are likely to be allowed to shoot for more than three songs and if you are very lucky you may use a flash, often emerging band don’t bother as rockstars’ whims.

Cambridge Barfly definitely wasn’t my favourite venue, but few weeks without it is already affecting the quality of live music being played in town, let’s hope Cambridge will be soon back partying with them.

~ by Valerio on July 5, 2008.

3 Responses to “Tokyo Police Club”

  1. i love the DOF in these shots! especially the last pic you have of Graham…what aperture was that?! just lovely! i saw TPC (great show) but the place was soooo packed and i didn’t get there early enough, i unfortunately did not walk away with many pics and definitely couldn’t move about the venue to get such pictures (i was stuck behind a suspended speaker)…jealous!

  2. Hi April,

    Thanks! That is my lovely zeiss 85mm @ f/1.4 its rendition of blur in short depth of field condition is one of the reasons I won’t leave my film cameras any soon!

  3. ooo-1.4! the closest i have right now is 1.7…nice shots! yep, i’m sticking with film too, in fact, TODAY i’ll receive my shipment of bulk B&W film and developer! can’t wait to use it in a concert setting!

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