Tokyo Police Club : Elephant Shell

7.9 Saddle Creek
2008 

 Rising indie-rock stars Tokyo Police Club grow up a bit – but not too much – on their debut full-length, Elephant Shell. After the breakthrough success in 2006 of their EP, A Lesson In Crime, these four boys from Newmarket, Ontario, proceeded to storm North America and beyond, playing everywhere from the inaugural Osheaga Festival in Montreal to such venerable European fests as Reading and Leeds.  Along the way, their repertoire of new material grew, to the point that crowds might be stunned when they didn’t recognize most of the set-list.  Thankfully, Elephant Shell is out, and it shows a good, natural evolution for the band.

From the first words of opener “Centennial”, singer/bassist Dave Monks doesn’t exactly sound ‘old’, but does sound a bit more grown-up and experienced (there are definite hints of a young Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie).  The driving nature of that piece is taken up a notch on “In a Cave”, thanks to Monks’ strong bass line, and the addition a nice expanse effect to a Tokyo Police Club staple, the group shout.  “Graves” sees that expanse effect go fuzzy, with a bigger press in parts, while “Juno” adds an echo.

Latest single “Tessellate” is maybe the group’s most mature piece, higher and more expressive, but still with the vibe of young men (there are the first hints of emo in this number, though…).  But then the band goes big, with epic guitars and cries on the stand out “Sixties Remake”, and the expansive and epic meaning of “Nursing Academy”.  In between those two, “The Harrowing Adventures Of…” is slower and sadder, more flowing and carrying, making it a nice change on the record, while the penultimate “Listen to the Math” has the right mix of touching carry and bass undertones (though the vocals aren’t perfect).  Finisher “The Baskervilles” maybe sums up Elephant Shell best, combining a new and interesting drive effect to the group shout that Tokyo Police Club became known for.

Before “Math” lies the first single, “Your English Is Good”, which was actually put out last year, both to whet the appetite for Shell, and give fans something to chew on when the band did their umpteenth tour.  The older piece is more like older Tokyo Police Club, faster and anthemistic – something that has been lost a bit with the band’s newer, wider sound.  But the four-piece was wise not to try to recapture the lightning of A Lesson In Crime again.  Hints of this growth could first be heard on “English”, and it’s great to see that promise come to fruition.

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