Reviews

Elephant Shell

Author: JIm Farber
04/18/2008 | New York Daily News | www.nydailynews.com | Feature
Tokyo Police Club get their hooks in you
Friday, April 18th 2008, 4:00 AM

The band Tokyo Police Club does a lot with a little.

Their songs never tarry past the three-minute mark, but within that tiny space they jam up to four separate hooks, each madly grasping for your attention.

"It's more of a challenge to try to get all the good stuff of a four-minute song into two minutes," says TPC front man David Monks. "It's fun to make it more concentrated."

Clearly others like it that way, too.

On the strength of just one EP - 2006's "A Lesson in Crime," which shoved seven dense songs into 16 minutes - TPC earned enough fans to sell out a rash of tours. The latest has spawned three headlining dates in the city: Sunday and Tuesday at Bowery Ballroom and Monday at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.

On Tuesday, the Canadian band releases its first full CD, "Elephant Shell." It more than lives up to the terse promise of the EP. The album's 11 songs last just 28 minutes but, like a finely reduced sauce or the perfect hors d'oeuvre, each cut bursts with nuance. In all of the songs, twinkling keyboards play off hard guitar shards, while an intrusive bass and a declarative drum add their own strident lures.

"With each instrument, we ask ourselves, 'What's the reason you're here?'" Monks says. "It's against the rules to just strum your guitar."

The foursome hit on that strategy as teenagers, growing up in Newmarket, Ontario (roughly an hour outside Toronto). "It's not far away enough to have its own identity," Monks says. "That's why we formed the band. There was nothing else to do."

TPC (who took the name from an early song they wrote) began playing under that moniker in 2002. They first drew inspiration from the garage rock that ruled the time, via the Strokes, Hives, and White Stripes. Yet only the first band's influence shows. Both groups like to keep every sound skinny and nervous. TPC's melodies more accurately recall the '80s new wave of the Smiths, New Order, or the Cure, even though Monks claims he rarely listened to any of those groups. Vocally, Monks has the same pinched quality as Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab for Cutie) and Colin Meloy (of the Decemberists).

TPC cut their first EP for Toronto's teeny Paperbag Records so it shocked them when it earned press raves all over the world. The attention led to a contract for the debut CD with the respected Saddle Creek label (home to Bright Eyes).

The group seems poised for only more kudos since they vow to hone their tight approach even further. "For us," Monks says, "it's all about making sure every sound has its purpose. We never want to waste a moment of time."
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