Tuesday, October 16, 2007

KQED Music: Tokyo Police Club

Meet the Geek Squad.

Tokyo Police Club, who play San Francisco on October 25, 2007 are not only awesome live, they are also wonderfully breathless on stage, like a bunch of hopelessly gawky teenagers. Songs burst out like short rushes of adrenaline, as if to cover up the band's shy-eyed embarrassment.

Such awkwardness seems to be a hugely undervalued quality these days. Most new acts, even those at the supposedly indie end of the music machine, seem to emerge pumped with confidence, already groomed by video stylists and brand consultants to become spotless, chart-conquering gods.

But I just don't buy it. I certainly don't consider myself to be anything other than a geek, after all. So, watching Toronto's Tokyo Police Club at The Independent back in July, I realized that it wasn't just their spikey, clever power pop that I loved (although, obviously, I did); I had also fallen for their scratchy-edged dorkiness.

They're like the band I always wanted The Strokes to be. Sure, I loved The Strokes' early singles, but I never really consummated my relationship with them. Why? Because they were just too slick and knowing, all rich parents, Swiss finishing schools, cool cliques, and uber-hip New York fashion labels. Ugh. Give me a bunch of awkward losers with wan skin and bottle-bottom glasses any day: ie, Tokyo Police Club.

And I don't mean that they have adopted a hipster-style token nerdiness like so many other indie bands. They have a genuine, impossible-to-hide discomfort with being in the spotlight and, in the shape of Graham Wright (keyboards/screaming), a spit in your face, sinew-straining misfit of the finest kind.

Because, while the others try to hide their social discomforts behind their fringes, Wright wears his on his sleeve. He writhes, hunched, with his nose just an inch from his keyboard (which he may or may not have built himself from a kit), before periodically lunging forward to bellow into his microphone with a rasping yell that would make throat doctors weep. He even wears thick-rimmed glasses, which has been the proud badge of musical losers made good from Graham Coxon all the way back to Buddy Holly.

Needless to say, they sound spectacular. Masters of the short-sharp-shock school of rock, their songs mostly sprint along for just two minutes each, and never, ever stray past the three-minute mark. Their only album release to date, A Lesson In Crime, is clipped to the point of abruptness, measuring just 17 minutes long by seven songs wide.

Tokyo Police Club speak to the geek in me, and in all of us. When Wright holds up his camera to take a picture of the crowd at the start and end of every gig they play, I suddenly feel prouder of my drawer filled with old gig ticket stubs, and less ashamed about dancing along to his band's songs like an over-excited dog with three legs. Which can only be a good thing.

Tokyo Police Club play Popscene at 330 Ritch Street on October 25, 2007. Doors open at 9pm, and there are no advance sales. Their EP "Smith" is due out November 6 on Paper Bag Records, and a new album is expected to follow early in 2008.

By Keith Laidlaw. Read this article in its original setting here.