Tokyo Police Club burst out of the gate in 2006 with A Lesson In Crime, a nearly perfect 16 minutes of sharp, melodic indie-rock that was smarter and more fun than a new band had any real right to be. Since then, the Canadians seem to have had a little trouble defining themselves, maturing perhaps too quickly with the still-great debut full-length Elephant Shell in 2008, but finding slightly diminishing returns on 2010’s Champ, which was solid, but sort of adrift in the space between spunk and slickness.
Album three, Forcefield, brings with it a more deliberate sort of polish; it’s as if the band’s studio skill—it’s produced by Doug Boehm and the band’s own singer-guitarist David Monks—has caught up to its sonic desires. There’s still a playful punkishness in evidence, but also a clearer eye toward the shiniest pop, something TPC has always secretly been good at. It’s easy to imagine a band meeting in which somebody said, “You know what? Let’s just go for it,” and everybody else solemnly agreed. How “it” is defined for Forcefield: no fear of big choruses and clean sounds.
That’s manifested nowhere more strongly than in the excellent album opener “Argentina (Parts I, II, III)”—nothing says “maturity” more strongly than a song suite. Over eight and a half minutes, the band shows every side of its personality, from straightforward pop with big melodies to a more atmospheric, new-wave-inspired comedown. It’s followed by “Hot Tonight,” which has a Strokes-at-the-disco swagger that’s both engaging and a little bit hollow, but in the way that a lot of great pop songs are. If they’re looking for a payday, TPC should try and sell this one to a boy band; in the right hands, it could be a Hot 100 jam—hell, it might be one in these hands if they’re lucky.
It’s a hell of a start that Forcefield mostly manages to keep rolling, though it does slow a bit toward the end: “Tunnel Vision” rides a weird little sample and a very ’80s synth to greatness, but “Feel The Effect” ends things on a chillier note than the record deserves. Still, four years after Champ, the whole thing feels like a step forward, or at least somewhere interesting, off to the side.