Reviews

Elephant Shell

Author: Anne Zaleski
05/01/2008 | Alternative Press | altpress.com | Feature
Tokyo Police Club

HQ: Newmarket, Ontario, Canada
Now Playing: Elephant Shell
Why You Should Know 'Em: This Canadian quartet are all about giddy, caffeine-fuled indie rock that's ideal for dancing around in front of the mirror in your bedroom.
You like? You'll like: Maximo Park/The Smiths/British Sea Power

After releasing their scruffy 2006 debut EP A Lesson In Crime, spring-loaded indie rockers Tokyo Police Club landed some pretty plum gigs playing with Enon, Art Brut and the Cold War Kids, in addition to a coveted appearance on the Late Show With David Leterman. But things haven't always been so rosy for the Toronto-based quartet. Voclatist/bassist Dave Monks remembers one particular gig in a Canadian ski resort town in which they were accidentally booked to play nearly three times their normal set length.

"[The promoter was] like, 'Okay, well, to get paid, you guys need to do at least two sets—and they've got to be an hour long each," Monks says via phone from his Toronto home. "We [went on] at 10 and played, like, anything we'd ever half-writtne or anything that had been half-thought-up. We did our best and kind of filled an hour, with some moderate applause. Then, at 11:30, we went on again and did the exact same thing. That was a pretty brutal show."

Thankfully, if ever faced with a similar situation again, TPC—Monks, guitarist Josh Hook, keyboardist Graham Wright and drummer Greg Alsop—are prepared: Their forthcoming full-length, Elephant Shell, is 28 minutes long (a full 12 minutes longer than Crime). Like the EP, Shell crams starry-eyed poetry (i.e. "Broken hearts tessellate tonight" from "Tessellate"), wiry yelps, handclaps and jittery guitars into compact songs that rarely cross the three-minute threshold. "We're not incapable of writing longer songs, we just don't feel the need to," Monks explains.

But gone are Crime's raw, garage-rock edges in favor of smoother keyborard glimmers ("Listen To The Math"), twinkling percussion ("Juno") and the occasional orchestra swell ("Centennial"). Think Stars improvising Death Cab For Cutie and Smohts songs at a raucous karaoke bar. Despite the effortless execution, Shell was created meticulously. The band started working with Peter Katis (Interpol, the National) at his Connecticut studio this past September, but ended up recording the bulk of the album in Toronto with Crime's producer, Jon Drew. The reulst is a collection of songs that are innocent, romatnic, energetic—and unabashedly fun.

"When we were about halfway done with what we thought was going to be the record, we realized we weren't ready to go into the studio in September [2006]. We needed to let our ideas ferment a bit more," Monks says. "We recorded in the dead of winter in Toronto, [and Shell] totally sounds like that to me. It totally has that really... I don't know, cold and icy but still comfortable feel to it."

Thankfully, TPC's new label, Saddle Creek, was patient—which isn't surprising, considering they were in hot pursuit of the band after catching them at the 2006 CMJ Festival. "They were the first label to really get on board and say, 'We want to work with you,'" Monks remembers. "There were a whole bunch of labels after that festival and over the coming year, and [Saddle Creek was] just the one that seemed to have the most competitive offer and the best team."

Tokyo Police Club were only together for a little more than a year before signing on the dotted line with the Omaha, Nebraska-based uber-indie label; however, the band membrers first starte dplaying together when they were 15 after bonding over a mutual love of Radohead's Kid A and bands like the White Stripes, the Strokes and the HIves. Still, you won't find the easy-going, down-to-earth Monks name-dropping any blog-buzz influences—or hopping on any trend bandwagons—anytime soon.

"I don't know how true it is, but I feel that people got the impression that we were like some type of dance band," he says, half-confused. "Dance-punk band? I don't know if that genre is still applicable. People think that we're trying to be cooler than we are. That's totally not us at all."
Elephant Shell

Elephant Shell

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