Tokyo Police Club at the Varsity, 8/19/10

Tokyo Police Club
August 19, 2010
Varsity Theater

The blogosphere can be a fickle mistress. Toronto quartet Tokyo Police Club went from teenaged basement band to playing every major music festival of 2007 pretty much overnight on the strength of the instantaneous blog buzz that greeted the release of their debut EP, A Lesson in Crime. All that adulation was heaped upon them despite the neophyte band boasting something in the neighborhood of 16 minutes of officially released music under their belts.

By the time the band had actually grown up some and released a proper album, 2008's full-length debut Elephant Shell, the cool kids had apparently moved on to a new instant-idol. The album was largely greeted with unjust indifference despite boasting just as many razor sharp hooks and taut pop-punk rhythms as its predecessor, albeit in a slightly less breathless and unhinged manor (You can only be a yelping 19-year-old for so long it turns out).

The recently released Champ marks the third chapter in Tokyo Police Club's shifting sonic story, and finds front man Dave Monks sounding old and weary (at all of 23) on lead single "Breakneck Speed' - a loping number that is oddly enough TPC's slowest released track to date despite its revving title. By and large, however, the band retain a need for speed, a point underscored by their show at the Varsity Theater, in which they managed to cram 21 songs into their 70 minute headlining set.

Tokyo Police Club at the Varsity, 8/19/10
Tokyo Police Club at the Varsity, 8/19/10
Tokyo Police Club at the Varsity, 8/19/10
Photos by Erik Hess

Kicking things off with Champ's poppiest number, "Favorite Color," the band had the small-but-impassioned crowd fired up from the get go (the first floor of the venue was roughly half full and the upper mezzanine section closed for the night). The combination of the most robust light show I've seen at a club gig since the last time Cut Copy rolled through town and the band's kinetic stage presence - plenty of mid-song instrument hopping and bopping across the stage - managed to create a party atmosphere despite the relatively poor turnout.

The group appeared to really hit its stride about a third of the way into the set when the massive chorus of "End of a Spark" got the crowd chanting along, followed by a pair of Elephant Shell's finest numbers ("In a Cave," "Tessellate") that maintained the forward momentum. A wisely chosen set list helped TPC ultimately carry the day, with the band moving deftly between some of their newer melancholic ballad material ("Hands Reversed"), slick and propulsive pop numbers ("Wait Up (Boots of Danger))" and the slightly spikey angular punk tunes that initially garnered them the spotlight ("Cheer it On"). By showcasing all facets of their sound the band managed to evoke such disparate bands as Phoenix and Superchunk depending on the moment, a fusion of influences that ultimately results in an irresistible sound that TPC can claim all their own.

Critic's bias: I don't get on an exercise bike often, but when I do there's about a 90% chance Tokyo Police Club's Elephant Shell is blasting on my headphones.
The crowd: Even more baby-faced than the barely-legal-drinking-age members of Tokyo Police Club.
Overheard in the crowd: "Well, are you actually planning on sitting in that chair or can I have it if you're just going to stand the whole time? I mean, I'll totally buy you a beer for it."
Random notebook dump: Is there a connection between bands with bassist lead singers and bands with exceptionally melodic bass lines?
Set Time: 70 minutes

Set list:
Favorite Color
Nature of the Experiment
Top Five (new unreleased song)
End of a Spark
In a Cave
Hands Reversed
Big Difference
Not Sick
Be Good
Favorite Food
Citizens of Tomorrow
Breakneck Speed
Wait Up (Boots of Danger)
Your English is Good

My Name is Jonas (aborted after broken string and tuning issues)
Cheer it On

Tokyo Police Club at the Varsity, 8/19/10
Tokyo Police Club at the Varsity, 8/19/10
Tokyo Police Club at the Varsity, 8/19/10
Photos by Erik Hess

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