Tokyo Police Club were a late-noughties indie band that never really threatened to get massive. Their 2007 debut EP, A Lesson In Crime, whipped through 8 tracks in 16 minutes, barely pausing to breathe. It exhibited a band with frenetic energy, and while it would be a stretch to say it contained much originality, the staccato-guitar-with-hyperactive-drums framework was attacked with such fervour and sincerity as to make you sit up and take notice. Their 2008 LP, Elephant Shell, while it received a 9/10 from the NME, was not a massive commercial success. Forcefield is their first original album since 2010’s Champ. To be honest, I was surprised to hear that they were still going, and excited to hear what they had come up with after all this time.
Opening track ‘Argentina (Parts I, II, III)’ shows that this is certainly not the same band that made A Lesson In Crime. Firstly, there is its running time, of 8 minutes and 32 seconds, over a quarter of the album as a whole. Yet this is not enough to revivify a band that, at best, was a smaller, and most significantly quotidian fish in the noughties indie pond. While the song begins with frantic yelping guitars, it quickly settles into a chugging indie-by-numbers track with dreary vocals, utterly removed from the idiosyncratic singing of their early material.
It does not get much better throughout the album. The rest of the tracks are mercifully shorter, but that is the only similarity to their previous work. Each one is a subtle reworking of the indie-pop formula, occasionally with an ‘uplifting’ or ‘anthemic’ chorus thrown in for good measure. This would be fine (not great, but fine) if it seemed like they meant it, as for instance Hot Hot Heat so clearly do (for those of you wondering about the decision of an obscure mid-noughties reference, I’m afraid I lost touch with the indie scene thereafter). As it is, it feels like they are phoning in these tracks in the hope that this is what people are after.
I would say I was disappointed, but as I didn’t even know Tokyo Police Club were still going, I am just going to pretend this album doesn’t exist, put on A Lesson In Crime, and go back to blissful ignorance.
Photo credits: Mom + Pop Records