Tokyo Police Club, “Champ — 10th Anniversary Reissue”

Tokyo Police Club
Champ — 10th Anniversary Reissue
MEMPHIS INDUSTRIES
7/10

There really isn’t a good reason why Tokyo Police Club never became one of the biggest indie rock bands on the planet. Their first EPs and debut album, Elephant Shell, were immediate explosions of brilliant hooks and effortlessly electric instrumentation. They were ahead of the new wave of indie bands, ramshackle and loose but with an absolutely undeniable ability to make fast, impossibly catchy songs. “Your English Is Good,” from 2008’s Elephant Shell, remains an iconic anthem thirteen years later, smelling like the beer-rotted floor of your favorite club or the sunscreen at a packed Lollapalooza crowd at 2:30 p.m. 

The group was kind of like a Canadian parallel to Bloc Party, just a half-decade behind. They grew a big following (from the indie rock POV, at least) off the strength of magnetic EPs, turned in a debut album that doubled down on this unique sound, and became immediate stars in their respective scenes. Then, they linked up with big producers—Bloc Party got Jacknife Lee for A Weekend in the City, Tokyo Police Club recruited Rob Schnapf for Champ—and fans were initially disenchanted by a particular box that got lost in the move to a bigger studio. Ten years later (eleven, for TPC) the Champ deluxe edition offers a nice slew of remixes and demos, but its best function is a reminder of how good Tokyo Police Club was the first time around. 

“Breakneck Speed” is the album’s centerpiece and its big single. It builds on the immediacy of the band’s chorus on previous records, but here, the pace is slowed, Dave Monks’ voice is stronger and a bit raspier, the reverb on the guitar crisper thanks to the studio equipment the band was able to access. It’s a song that still hits as hard as when it first arrived, and I think fans were initially disenchanted because it’s so clearly a sonic step-up for a band that coasted by on charm and scrappiness on earlier EPs. But devoid of the context of their discography, Champ is just a swell record. Whether or not it adheres to any particular vision of what Tokyo Police Club is supposed to be is beside the point. On this album, the band proves that they can do more with more, whereas on early efforts they did a lot with not very much at all.

“Bambi” is another standout from the record, and it’s emblematic of what the group is trying to do on the LP. Every song has just a little bit more than before. There are more parts, more ideas, but it’s always in service of making good music. It’s hard to balance this desire to use every tool at your disposal while maintaining the capital-T Truth of your project, but Tokyo Police Club don’t make many wrong choices on Champ. It’s a bit late to be offering them flowers for Champ, and while the added songs and remixes are nothing more than supplemental, they give us an excuse to champion this album for what it shows about Tokyo Police Club: A band getting bigger without growing pains.

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