A force to be reckoned with

Tokyo Police Club in Cincinnati

By Alan Sculley

Photo: [l-r] Graham Wright, Dave Monks, Josh Hook and Greg Alsop of Tokyo Police Club; photo: Andrew Strapp

During the early stages of writing for their new album, Forcefield, the four members of Tokyo Police Club struggled to come up with songs they felt were worthy of being on an album. A whole batch of songs was ditched at the outset of the project.

It wasn’t a new sensation. The group experienced a similar bout of writer’s block with its first full-length album, 2008’s Elephant Shell. Coming off of the surprise success of its seven-song debut EP, A Lesson In Crime – which sold 30,000 copies despite being the first release from the band and being on a small Canadian label, Paper Bag Records – the group went into the studio to start writing the first full-length record. After two-and-a-half weeks, almost nothing worth keeping had been recorded.

Tokyo Police Club pulled through that scary moment, and drummer Greg Alsop said that frame of reference helped when the early stages of the Forcefield project only produced music that didn’t make the cut.

“I think that’s what kind of allowed us to keep pushing at it,” Alsop said in a recent phone interview. “It’s hard to remember in the moment, when you are in that state of just total frustration over what you’re trying to do, and remember don’t worry, it always comes together at the end.

“This time, it was more about surpassing what we had done before and holding ourselves to a standard we never really held ourselves to before and just never really being satisfied with what was coming out. I think, eventually, if you keep pushing yourself to that, you hope there will just be a breaking point when you come through and you’re like ‘Oh, that’s why I was crawling through that tunnel for so long. There really was something at the end of it and we’re there now.’”

Going into Forcefield, Alsop said, the group (which also includes singer/bassist David Monks, guitarist Josh Hook and keyboardist Graham Wright) was feeling the pressure to keep growing as a band and find more of a musical identity.

Output, though, wasn’t a problem. The bigger issue was trying to find a musical direction and sound that felt natural and right.

“There are some songs on there like ‘Beaches’ or ‘Argentina’ that came about pretty early on in the writing process,” Alsop said. “I think the challenge was just to come up with songs that felt like they would last. Like, we wrote upwards of like 50 songs in different states of being finished for this record. We had a lot of material, and it kind of spanned all of these different genres. Like, we had songs that were extremely poppy and songs that were very electronic and kind of sample-based, and songs that had almost like more of a hip-hop groove to it.”

In the end, Tokyo Police Club landed on a sound rooted in one of the oldest rock ‘n’ roll approaches there is – electric guitars, bass and drums. The music, though, has decidedly modern attitude, and the group wasn’t afraid to apply modern touches to its songs. “Beaches” and “Toys,” for instance, have plenty of synthy and electronic tones mixed into their organic instrumentation. The guitar-centric style works because Tokyo Police Club continues to turn out strong, hook-filled guitar pop/rock songs. The album opens with “Argentina (Parts 1, II, II),” which starts things with a forceful blast of guitar rock before venturing into more expansive territory. For a band whose songs generally have clocked in at three minutes or so, this eight-minute track is quite a statement. From there, Tokyo Police Club keeps things concise and catchy, with the poppy first single, “Hot Tonight,” the shimmery “Miserable” and the hard-hitting, slightly futuristic sounding “Tunnel Vision” among the highlights of the consistently strong album. The growth Tokyo Police Club experienced in making Forcefield is also carrying over to its live shows.

“We’re playing tighter than we ever have before, and we’re kind of paying attention to a lot of the intricacies of the songs in a way I don’t think we were quite able to do live before,” Alsop said.

Tokyo Police Club will perform on Thursday, Sept. 11 at 20th Century Theatre in 3021 Madison, Rd. in Cincinnati. Public is also on the bill. Show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $18 in advance, or $20 D.O.S. For more information, please visit tokyopoliceclub.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Alan Sculley at AlanSculley@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Alan Sculley at AlanSculley@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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