Saddle Creek | Tokyo Police Club | Reviews


Elephant Shell

05/06/2008 | | | Album Review
New albums from buzz bands can sometimes have the shelf life of a banana. Sure they're fresh and tasty on those first few listens, but they often turn soft, brown, and unappealing with repeated spins. Listening those first few times, one often wonders just how a record will stand up over time. There are rare no-brainers; when I first laid ears on the Strokes' debut, although it wasn't going to re-write rock and roll history, I knew it wasn't going stale anytime soon. Even scarcer are those debuts that age like a bottle of fine wine, becoming fuller and more remarkable with the perspective of time. Arcade Fire's Funeral comes to mind, an album that seemingly gets better every year. Ah, the inexact science of digesting new music.

Elephant Shell, the hyped debut from Ontario's , is of a curious vintage in itself. I\ve spun this disc dozens of times, not because I'm in love with it, but rather to gain perspective on how it will wear over time. Like those repetitive mechanical tests that laboratory researchers perform to simulate years of wear and tear on everything from car engines to bed springs, putting an album through a compressed sequence of listens is an important exercise with a band that is highly unoriginal, yet highly engaging. Over the sub-half-hour playing time, Tokyo Police Club manages to pop out hook after hook of delightfully late-for-the-party songs. That they do this without actually crashing the party is a feat unto itself. The formula = [tight songwriting + snappy arrangements] - [false pretense] / [youthful exuberance].

In 2006 the four young men, who learned to play as seniors in high school (take that Franz Ferdinand!), churned out a 16-minute EP called A Lesson in Crime. The blast of Canadian air caught the jetstream just right, turning the bright lights of the mainstream media (NY Times, Interview, Blender et al) on to the band named after a nonsensical lyric from the very EP itself. Did The Monkees ever have it this easy? Either modern times have made it easier for talent to break, or technology\'s buzz machine has lowered the hanging fruit to within spitting distance.

At not even twice the length of their EP, the initiation LP delivers the good stuff and fluff just fine. The light fare comes fast, if not always furious, from the opening of "Centennial" to "The Baskervilles" ten tracks on. Lead vocalist David Monks doesn't have the most melodic range, but he gets points for earnest delivery, accompanied by his slap-happy bass lines. The backing band of guitar, keys and drums also get it done, winding up and letting loose with aplomb.

If Tokyo Police Club are unknowingly, and uncannily, channeling anyone, it\'s not the obvious ilk of Bloc Party, but rather the zest of Portland\'s The Joggers. The atonal melodies, chorale chants and start-stop rhythms are so close to With a Cape and a Cane, they could be sister records. Since The Joggers are doing respectable things within their arc of the never-ending post-punk curve, Tokyo Police Club are bound to likewise get good grades in their wake. I can't say with conviction that Elephant Shell will stand the test of time - it could be forgotten within a year - but such is the peril of retreading well-worn musical ground. The album should, however, stay fresh for the summer. On the spectrum of banana to wine, Elephant Shell is along the lines of a lime.

7 out of 10
Elephant Shell

Elephant Shell

LP / CD / MP3