The wait has been far too long for Tokyo Police Club’s 3rd full-length album. The band released Champ in 2010, and became indie darlings thanks to their infectious melodies, quirky lyrics, and talented indie-rock musicianship. After that came the band’s ambitious covers compilation (featuring Kelly Clarkson’s “Since You’ve Been Gone” and a moving rendition of Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA”), and a long time away from the spotlight. Their touring was minimal, and news of a future release was nonexistent. Now, four years after Champ was unleashed to the world, Tokyo Police Club are back, and it’s like they’ve never even left.
As you’ve probably gathered when you were in high school and/or college, four years is a long time, and lots of things can change over that time. In that regard, Forcefield shows the band taking inventory on what’s come out since then, and that has resulted in a few songs that are outside the box of what fans are used to from them. The first example is the extremely guitar-driven ode to preparing to woo a former lover, “Gonna Be Ready.” Thanks to the guitars provided by Josh Hook, the track begins frantically, as if it were a Manchester Orchestra track. Up next is “Beaches,” a slowed-down, synth-tinged track that sounds as if it were written by The Neighbourhood and performed by Tokyo Police Club. “Tunnel Vision” opens with a heavy bass riff, moving quickly through verse and chorus before a crashing outro that is powered by drummer Greg Alsop. The track doesn’t quite remind the listener of any other band, but it is certainly a departure from the band’s previous work.
While the band branch outward a great deal, there are still a great deal of tracks that embody what the band have built their consistent career on. Bassist/vocalist David Monks once again talks about the struggles of growing older, focusing mostly on the interactions and difficulties a person faces during the delicate time in between someone’s teenage years and adulthood. For example, “Hot Tonight” details a night out on the town, while “Tunnel Vision” talks about the consequences of having, ahem, tunnel vision and living life without thinking toward the future. Monks’s lyrics take an introspective tone at times, like on “Miserable,” where he sings “I get miserable, and I feel like the only one who gets this way sometimes.” It’s a track about dealing with the anxiousness applied to everyday life, but moves like a catchy summer tune. “Toy Guns” finds Monks hiding his problems due to the constant reminders of the problems, as he sings in the chorus, “Well, every other kid on the block’s got a problem, I’m just one.” With the band’s glossy musicianship accompanying the lyrics, the darker tones provide an interesting contrast, almost to portray them as if they’re being swept under the rug to appear happy.
Where Forcefield finds Tokyo Police Club taking their biggest strides forward, however, is in the bookend tracks. Opening with the 8-minute epic (a la Circa Survive’s “Birth of the Economic Hit Men” from Violent Waves) “Argentina (Parts I, II, III)” is a three-stage experience in a relationship. Part 1 deals with the initial infatuation and wooing process, while Part 2 deals with the effects of a breakup (highlighted by Monks crooning “I don’t want to want you like I want you”). Part 3 takes an interesting turn, as the narrator of the song sees the former lover again, and seems to be at peace with they way things have ended. It’s a different perspective than what we usually see from breakup songs, but that different perspective is exactly why Tokyo Police Club have become such an interesting band to follow. The album’s closer, “Feel the Effect,” is a sort-of sequel to the “Argentina” saga, as Monks reflects on the, ahem, effects of his actions that led to the end of his relationship. The track itself is a little understated, as it fades away rather than ending with a huge, crashing moment. The atmosphere of the ending is perfect, as it depicts the young man singing the lyrics accepting the mistakes of his youth as he travels into adulthood.
With a four-year break between full-lengths, there was a certain amount of pressure on Tokyo Police Club that they could still maintain their listeners’ attention, and deliver something worth waiting so long for. On Forcefield, they’ve done just that. The band take a few steps outward creatively, which help them expand the scope of their sound, while tightening the screws and highlighting the band’s best qualities in the process. Their unique songwriting, excellent musicianship, and endearing, relateable lyrics kept them close to a mainstream breakthrough. But with the layoff, it appears that a rise in popularity was never something the band put much thought into. Instead, they holed themselves up for a few years, came closer to perfecting their craft, and have emerged once again with the most complete album of their career.