Shaky Knees Fest preview: Tokyo Police Club

Tokyo Police Club is one of those bands whose scene debut is consistently described as “explosive.” As their first EP A Lesson in Crime opens and drummer Greg Alsop beats his full kit into oblivion while vocalist/bassist Dave Monks shouts through phone static: “OPERATOR! GET ME THE PRESIDENT OF THE WORLD! THIS IS AN EMERGENCY!”, there frankly is no better way to put it: if ever a band exploded onto a scene, it was the young Canadian quartet in 2006 (the majority of its members just 19 years old at the time). Each of the 8 total tracks clocks in at under 3 breathless minutes as Monks chronicles the aftereffects of a complete robot takeover. It’s pure helter-skelter fun and turned the indie blogosphere’s keen eyes upon the group, eager for a full LP.


2008’s successful Elephant Shell, followed by Champ in 2010, earned TPC a reigning place as indie rock darlings. The sound is positively youthful: Champ explores the early-20’s life crisis and childhood nostalgia felt too soon with bright synths, playful banter, and soaring guitar riffs. It’s frenetic, dizzyingly joyous, and a little panicked–not unlike those first few years in adulthood.

They’ll play Shaky Knees in support of their latest release, Forcefield. The album was promoted with a 9-minute lyric video for “Argentina (Pts. I, II, and III)” in December 2013, with the full record dropping in late March. It’s a shift for TPC: the Forcefield tracks feel more calculated, smoother around the edges with more breathing room. Single “Hot Tonight” possesses all the perky jangle of Elephant Shell single “Your English Is Good,” but, over guitarist Josh Hook’s spare, reverby strains, Monks’s vocals are a little smoky before they break, the resolve lacking the shrapnel of previous records.

Admittedly, I miss the unpredictability of old TPC–the bizarro, neon-laced decor thrown on a verse, or the solo that’s stumbly-weird but perfect. By the first chorus of most Forcefield tracks, my brain knows where we’re going, and by the end, hasn’t been surprised. But, while it might not measure up to the unreasonably high standards I set for it–Champ is one of my all-time favorite records–Forcefield is certainly a solid indie-pop album.

I saw TPC live fresh off of Champ’s release in 2011, and it was absolutely one of the most fun shows I’ve attended. My friends and I were among the few attendees old enough to be holding beers, save a few noble dad chaperones, at the all-ages venue Jackrabbits in Jacksonville. A girl in a glittery party dress, celebrating her 16th birthday, playfully slapped me as I glimpsed the set list during the soundcheck: “Do you really wanna ruin the surprise?” she asked. I stopped squinting at the Sharpie scrawl a few feet in front of me and woke up the next morning bruised from dancing, face aching from singing along and smiling. Even if I had made it through reading the whole list, TPC would have found a way to show me something new as they gave it their all for a packed house.

Tokyo Police Club plays on May 9 at 3PM on the Peachtree Stage. They’ll also play a late-night set with electro-new wave Atlantans Today The Moon, Tomorrow The Sun on May 10 in The Masquerade’s Hell level. Late night shows are not included in Shaky Knees admission: get your ticket here.