Under Review

Tokyo Police Club

A Lesson in Crime (Paper Bag Records)

Review By Mike LaPointe


Over startling, hyperactive drums we hear an urgent cry: “Operator! Get me the President of the World! This is an emergency!” The guitar launches in, ascending higher, faster, before the bass marches forward, handcuffed to Atari-like keyboards. It’s Tokyo Police Club saying hello on the opening of their debut EP, A Lesson in Crime. It’s also their theme song, as frontman David Monks hollers: “When you’re standing near/Tokyo Police Club/When you’re standing next to me/Tokyo Police Club/Lost in the Pacific/Arresting you for being in love.”
About as bewildering as an armed raid on your grow-op, A Lesson in Crime chases you through seven songs in sixteen frantic minutes. One moment you’re seized and forced to dance at gunpoint, and the next you’re told to lend an ear to a prophetic tale about a robot-governed future. You won’t find it easy to catch your breath in between tracks. They leave you no room to fight back, but you won’t want to.
Drummer Greg Alsop holds these songs together with twitchy, mathematical, post-something-or-other beats, giving guitarist Joshua Hook a place to stand so he can play like Dick Dale if he were in My Bloody Valentine; blistering tremolos in an other-worldly dimension. Monks seconds as the band’s bassist, but he doesn’t neglect his duties on the four-string while singing. His bass lines constantly give rise to the momentum, often stealing the spotlight for a moment or two before magnetising to the drums once again.
The lyrical vision of Tokyo Police Club is of a world where “computers rule the planet” and children are “slaves building spaceships at night/in the fluorescent light.” But don’t mistake their Terminator ethos for gloom or despair, or even any kind of social commentary. They treat their apocalyptic subject matter with the same tongue-in-cheek sensibility that makes the Islands’ debut so strangely amusing. It’s hard to think about avoiding the enslavement of our species by machines when you’re busy flailing to their handclaps and screaming back to their dorky call-and-response choruses.
Smartly, they’re willing to ditch their conceptual side when the songwriting calls for it. “If It Works,” with a charged, thumping beat, benefits from Monks giving us a glimpse into a mortal moment: “And I wait for every meal/But I still set a place for you.” It ends up being the song’s most poignant lyric. After all, it’s emotion that sets us apart from the machines.
The only complaint you could launch against A Lesson in Crime is that it falls in that wish-it-were-longer limbo with every other great EP. With an arsenal this strong, the recording is aching to be fleshed out into a proper album where they could develop their lofty concepts to an even more effective degree. One can only hope they haven’t put all of their eggs in one basket. The future of humankind may depend on them.