Reviews

Elephant Shell

Author: Liza Weisstuch
05/23/2008 | Boston Globe | www.bostonglobe.com | Feature
HANGING WITH...

Tokyo Police Club
On an unexpected night off, the rockers go for sushi, and restorative wasabi, in Allston

Graham Wright has a mission: to try a regional beer in every city he visits. And the baby-faced keyboardist for Tokyo Police Club has been in a lot of cities over the past few months.

The post-punk-influenced indie rockers from Ontario are nothing short of obsessive about playing - so obsessive that during their visit to Boston in April, they had to call off an impulsively scheduled college show because vocalist David Monks was feeling under the weather and his voice was close to shot. The night before the canceled gig, the quartet played a sold-out show at the Paradise, preceded by a performance on "Late Show With David Letterman," a three-night run of sold-out concerts in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and a smattering of in-store appearances. All of this, mind you, has been to promote their first full-length album, "Elephant Shell."

In Boston, Monks's condition provided them with a rare treat: a night off. They also bought CDs and grappled with disappointment upon discovering the clothing boutique Johnny Cupcakes didn't actually sell cupcakes. Over sushi at Allston's sleek Privus, they reflected on life on the road and sweets that might have been. Monks, 21, continually swept his overgrown hair out of his face as he sipped on room-temperature water (his throat, remember), while Josh Hook, the 20-year-old guitarist, drank soda, and Wright, 21, gulped down a Sam Adams Summer. (Mission accomplished. For now.)

"I feel like if we were in a movie, you could kill a man with these chopsticks," said Wright, snapping at the air Mr. Miyagi-style with sleek stainless-steel chopsticks.

"Look at the grip on these. Classy," said Greg Alsop, the 23-year-old drummer, who , naturally, used them to beat out a rhythm on the table. "I wonder who first thought to call them 'chopsticks.' "

All four band members are prone to fits of curiosity and arbitrary outbursts of observation, but it's Wright who is most inclined to notice the subtle and the absurd. So inclined, in fact, that he has a narrowly focused tour blog about bathrooms (tpcblog.exclaim.ca). He's particularly interested in different styles of hand dryers found around the planet. Upon returning from the loo that night, he merrily announced that the restaurant was equipped with one of his favorite models: the Xlerator.

"It's so strong, your tendons shift around under the air pressure," explained Alsop.

Washrooms are a fine way to chronicle regional differences, but the guys have other anecdotes that better illustrate those points. Hook recalled, for instance, that they were called "metrosexuals" by someone at a rest stop "somewhere in the South." On this night, it just so happened that three of them were wearing black V-neck sweaters - by coincidence, and Monks claimed his was navy - but they're certainly not the kind of rockers who keep a stylist's number on speed dial.

"It was just after a long van ride," Alsop said of the metrosexual comment. "Maybe it's because I was all bed-head."

When the sushi arrived, they ate in silence, aside from the occasional inquiry to clarify what was on whose plate. Chalk it up to hunger, or to an extreme camaraderie, the kind it takes to keep them all from wringing one another's necks on long van drives.

"It's why we all get along," said Wright. "We don't have to talk to each other if we don't want to." Their fraternal bond is hardly surprising. Hook, Wright, and Monks have been friends since fourth grade in Newmarket, Ontario. That's also when they met Alsop, a sixth grader and self-proclaimed "schoolyard legend" who was already a rocker.

"I always dreamt of being a musician. Then I remember seeing you play 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' with your band," said Wright, turning to Alsop. "I was just blown away."

Bands that play together - and stay together - inevitably sniffle together, and Alsop was starting to feel Monks's symptoms.

"By the end of the tour, everybody's sick," said Wright, who prescribed wasabi. Alsop complied, with a wince. "Pure health," Alsop said. "Clearing right up,"

After the dinner plates disappeared, they headed outside. Their friends and former tour buddies in Ra Ra Riot happened to be playing at the Middle East, Wright realized, but TPC's van was leaving for Northampton in the morning, then on to Philly, D.C., Buffalo, and so on.

Monks slipped in to Store 24. He needed Airborne - and more rest. Fortunately, the T ride back to their hotel was a short one
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