Print Edition: March 19, 2014
When I heard that Tokyo Police Club was going to release a new album, Forcefield, after four years of having heard nothing from them, I freaked out. I think it’s safe to say that Tokyo Police Club’s previous album, Champ, is easily one of my favourite albums. So Forcefield was up against some pretty formidable standards.
Champ was the emotional equivalent of a teenager: inexperienced and angsty as hell. Barrelling down a small-town main street in late July. Running shoes that were probably once white but now boast more texture than colour. Long greasy hair flying about our protagonist’s face. This is Champ: confused with everything, slightly melancholic, and yet oddly compelling. Adolescence epitomized.
Forcefield is more mature than Champ — but not by much. If Champ was equivalent to careless, confused adolescence, then Forcefield is careless, confused 20-something-hood. You’re more mature, but you still don’t know where you’re going.
“Argentina,” Forcefield’s first single, was met with excitement and general approval from fans. As always, there was that one individual who is overly critical of everything: “‘Argentina’ sounds just like a really long poppy TPC song; just because a song is long doesn’t mean it’s good!” To this critic I say: well, you’re partly right. It does sound like that. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sure, this song is more upbeat and pop-influenced than TPC’s earlier work, but it’s still genuinely good. Different does not always mean bad. Tokyo Police Club’s nine-minute-long single actually manages to keep all its energy throughout, and avoids getting boring. Fun fact: “Argentina” was originally three separate songs. After playing through them, the band decided they’d work better as one.
The only weak link in this album is its last song: “Feel The Effect.” The track feels lazy; it doesn’t really do anything, you know? It just sort of sits there, a half-hearted bookend in an otherwise unbelievable album.
Tokyo Police Club has always had a penchant for crafting vaguely melancholic songs whose melodies and lyrics manage to stay in your head for days, if not longer. This is certainly true for the other eight tracks that make up Forcefield.
“Hot Tonight,” the second single from this album, is actually not that ambitious at all. It’s probably one of the most straightforward and pop-like songs on the whole record. But it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. As always, lead singer and bassist Dave Monks’ vocals are oddly hypnotic and incredibly visual. As melancholic as the lyrics are (“I had a good time and I’m ready to die”), this song, along with others, like “Miserable,” is guaranteed to make you want to dance, or at the very least bob your head like a buoy in the sea of sound that is Tokyo Police Club. In terms of infectiousness, it doesn’t get any better than the chorus on “Toy Guns.” You’ll be singing this for days, trust me.
Forcefield is also a stylistic departure for Tokyo Police Club, boasting more ambitious instrumentation. “Gonna Be Ready,” for example, features a screeching guitar that gradually builds tension throughout the whole track, ending somewhat abruptly, and giving way to “Beaches,” one of the most unabashedly infectious and angst-ridden songs on the whole album. “I am waiting for a knock on the door / you can call on me to say you were right / are you gone, are you there / are you just out of sight?” The whole song implies so many inadequacies and insecurities on the part of the narrator. I love it.
A lot of the songs on this album are about love or relationships. Not in a cheesy Hollywood way, though — more in a troubled, very personal fashion. The narrator in most of the tracks comes off as being so totally awkward that one can’t help but be convinced that his feelings are genuine. “Argentina” includes a line I think we’ve all heard before, maybe worded a bit differently, in so many movies and books that it’s not even funny: “I don’t want to want you like I want you.” Normally, I’d write off such a phrase as being eight units of measurement over the line of how cliché something can be before I have to stop taking it seriously, but Monks sells it. His infatuation has so completely taken hold of him that he doesn’t even know what to do with himself or how to deal with it. I dig it.
In the end, Forcefield has become one of my favourite albums within weeks of it appearing on my phone. Is it better than Champ? No, no it is not. But that’s only because Champ was easily Tokyo Police Club’s best album, and probably one of the albums I push on people the hardest. Forcefield is, however, one of the most refreshing records I’ve heard in a long time. If you haven’t managed to somehow get your hands on the record two weeks before its actual release date, I urge you to buy it when it comes out.