Fireworks: Desiree Weber reviews Tokyo Police Club

Tokyo Police Club Varsity Theater, May 6 Review by Desiree Weber

Strobes and Fiery Youth, eh?

The opening chords of ominous distortion left no one in doubt whether Tokyo Police Club would bring it. They did. Quickly segueing into their first (of many) post-punk, brit-rock, synth-pop gems, these four boys from our neighbors to the north whipped the crowd into a strobe-enhanced frenzy. And if those weren’t enough hyphenated descriptors for you, you’re in luck. Their next energy-fueled nugget “In a Cave” was only out-paced by their biggest hit to date, “Swedes in Stockholm.” Singer/bassist Dave Monks leads this manic-energy quartet to a place few indie rock bands reach: it’s easy to dance to, easy to listen to and easy to like even more on the second or even tenth listen. Judging by keyboardist Graham Wright, it may also help you lose weight – he practically ran a marathon while pounding the keys or shaking his tambourine for all it (or he) was worth. Don’t get me wrong – guitarist Josh Hook and drummer Greg Alsop are no slouches either.

Putting aside their music for just a second, the light-show-in-a-box that created the back drop for their set was quite impressive on its own merits. I say “in-a-box” because the 8 LED towers situated behind the band could easily be fit into a (big) box, yet they changed the feel of the Varsity more than most bands’ performances do. Goodbye eclectic, romantic Café des Artistes, hello flashing blue, red and yellow strobe effects.

But back to the music. I found myself liking their songs for the same reason I like fireworks (the ones on the Fourth of July, not personal drama ones): they’re loud, fast, and remind me of my fiery youth. And they disappear before you get bored with them, by which I mean that the average song lasted between 2 and 3 minutes and ended before it collapsed under its own spent energy. Luckily these guys are no flash in a pan. Their lyrics are a step beyond the usual love-lust-loss triad, which is part of the reason they stand up to repeat listening. The other reason is that their mountains of sound are just intricate enough to keep you hooked. It also helps that the boys elicit audience participation, especially on crowd favorite “Citizens of Tomorrow” and the intense “Nature of the Experiment.” It can never hurt to clap your hands.

The opening band Smoosh is a duo (sometimes trio) of sisters that craft indie pop that’s heavy on keyboard-drum interplay and light on sappiness. It’s hard to believe the auteurs behind this stuff are 14 and 16 years old. Keyboardist and lead singer Asya seemingly transforms into a person much older than her actual age, singing with intensity not often believable in people twice as old. It’s only in between songs that the self-aware habits of a 16-year old sneak to the fore. Songs like “She’s Right” combine her ethereal, but robust, vocals with keyboard melodies and solid drum rhythms a la her sister Chloe. Their new song “Dark Shine” featured a darker, slower piano line and bass drum crashes that sounded like thunder claps before it mellowed into a more inviting chorus. In a night filled with youthful energy, Smoosh fit right in. -- Desiree Weber