Operator, get me the president of the world!
When Tokyo Police Club first started getting what kids used to call "blog love," longevity was a non-issue. They were "Tokyo Police Club," after all. And the concise, energetic Canadian band's first few releases were EPs and singles-- short-lived, but satisfying, pleasures. Then another much-blogged band known for their EPs, Austin's Voxtrot, put out a full-length and the thing flopped. In 2008, Tokyo Police Club issued debut album Elephant Shell, making the jump to Omaha's Saddle Creek label (Bright Eyes, Cursive, Rilo Kiley), and what do you know? It turned out to be pretty good. I saw them open for Art Brut at the Warsaw in Brooklyn. They were awesome. I saw them play in front of like 2,000 people at Denmark's Roskilde Festival. Also awesome.

Response to this year's follow-up, Champ, has been more mixed. A lot of the discussion has focused on the songs being longer, the band stretching out a little bit, but I think it's telling that most reviewers seem to have trouble finding something distinctive about the music to use as a hook. Here's Spencer Kornhaber, writing in SPIN: "How can a band with so many ideas make so many songs that leave you feeling the exact same way?" Champ still sounds like Tokyo Police Club, so it's never bad, at all, but as far as I've been able to tell there's not much reason to listen to it rather than the first album or early EPs.

At People's last night, then, Tokyo Police Club were really a band in transition. Will they keep reshuffling their Strokes-like guitars, pinpoint drumming, pealing keyboards, and youthful shouts into different patterns over and over again, with diminishing returns? Or will they come up with some new songs that transcend whatever style they're in, memorable tracks that would be worth blogging about all over again if Tokyo Police Club were a brand-new band? Suddenly, longevity matters. And the jury's still out on whether singing bass player Dave Monks, keyboard player Graham Wright, guitarist Josh Hook, and drummer Josh Hook have it.

They still put on a really solid set of wiry, clap-along tunes. Musically, Tokyo Police Club line up almost too perfectly next to the polished, synth-laced pop/rock of the last two headliners I saw at People's, Phoenix and the Strokes' Julian Casablancas, but with a more kinetic stage presence than either. So what if Monks pronounced Des Moines as "Dez Moinez" or the name of Ames-based openers the Envy Corps as "Envy Corpse"? As long as he and his fellow band members were playing smart, catchy songs like cyber-paranoid "Citizens of Tomorrow" or deceptively jaunty "Your English Is Good" ("Oh! Give us your vote/ Give us your vote/ If you know/ What's good for you"), nobody minded. Champ tracks like "Breakneck Speed" and "Wait Up" fit right in, too. The only song I wasn't feeling as much was the one Chet Boom said sounded like Vampire Weekend, and I sensed the rest of the crowd wasn't as into it, either, which caused me to tweet something hyperbolically derisive that (understandably!) required me to do some backpedaling (man, why do I use Twitter?). Encore "Cheer It On", from 2006's A Lesson in Crime EP, was still every bit the raucous sing-along it was the last time I saw these guys, a couple of years ago, starting with that unforgettable opening line about "the president of the world." And I suppose it's hard for any band to top a song that has their own name in it. Next time I see Tokyo Police Club, I hope they'll be able to close their sets with a new single just as good or better.

It's good to have options.
I didn't catch too much of Envy Corps, the Ames-based band who are probably central Iowa's biggest non-Slipknot, non-"American Idol"-contestant musical export these days, and I missed the first act, locals Cashes River. The other night at Vaudeville Mews I also caught the debut performance of local band Canyons (pictured above), featuring Gabe Cordova, and a visit from Portland's Hosannas (pictured below), who opened their set a cappella, played slow, sweet-voiced noise-pop using a distractingly complex array of pedals and keyboards, and prompted at least one concert-goer standing next to me to breakdance. At the very bottom of this post is a video clip from the Poison Control Center show I went to last week in Fairfield; experiences like that are why I'm so critical of other bands I see who travel all this way to put on less of a show.

When we were young we moved to this beat.

The Poison Control Center: "Monument"/"When We Break Down" (10/08/2010)

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