Just before turning the ripe old age of 25, I discovered a concept known as a mid-mid life crisis. Y’know, one of those made-up millennial generation fads, this one based on the idea that you don’t have to be 40 with a mortgage and kids to experience a mid-life crisis. I turned 25 and lo-and-behold, self-diagnosed myself as having a mid-mid life crisis. This generally involved being more of a shambles than usual, committing some minor criminal offenses, wanting to leave my job and start a record label, and making a spectacular mess of any potential relationship. With hindsight, and a year to look back at it, of course it wasn’t a crisis. I was still trying to adjust to the fact that I wasn’t a student anymore, as much as I might act like one.
Tokyo Police Club’s brand new record – Forcefield – got fired over to me in the early, bleak days of a British January, and it has brought all those memories flooding back. I guess it helps that the vocalist was also born in 1987 (and has the same name as me), so is also going through the whole ‘I’m not twenty anymore but definitely not thirty either’ feeling.
Lyrically it’s a record full of anxieties, ideological escapism, and dealing with life’s little adventures. Of course, being Tokyo Police Club, it’s all wrapped up in perfect indie pop-rock noise. So often, on a first or second listen to a record, you’ll think it’s either a ‘lyrics-first’ album [Los Campesinos!, I’m looking at you], or a ‘music first’ album. Forcefield somehow manages to be both of those things at once, which is a rare quality.
Looking at the band’s back catalogue, they’ve never strayed over 4 minutes for a single track. This feels like a reflection of their ability to distill all of their ideas into easily digestible little nuggets, filled with more hooks than you can shake a stick at. So seeing that the opening track of Forcefield is over eight minutes long makes you afraid that they got really into The Mars Volta during that four year gap since Champ. But instead, we’re presented with an epic triptych that nimbly and cleverly journeys through the stages of a relationship. At the beginning, it’s just hope and excitement of getting together with someone, speaking in the future tense: “I want you wearing my t-shirt,” all with the puppy-like over-zealousness and energy reflected in the tempo. The middle section wakes up in a fuzzy, half-asleep state, as vocalist and bassist David Monk realizes the mistakes that he made. This then sends us tumbling into recriminations as he apologises for his behaviour and speaks of the relationship in the past tense, but in TPC’s typically hilarious and astute manner: “If I was I lighthouse, I would look all over the place / If I was an asshole, thank you for keeping a smile on your face.”
On a track like ‘Miserable’ we’re greeted with a positively sunny sounding opening as Monk wants to “move to the Bahamas with ya.” But as with ‘Argentina’, the track descends into introspection as he confronts the reasons behind this sentiment: “Act nice but my body’s falling apart / dress rich but my body is falling apart / keep going but my body is falling apart, I wanna travel to the future and get away.”
Sonically, the record is imaginative enough to give it staying power, with the odd curveball thrown in to make sure you’re still paying attention. ‘Toy Guns’ has a whirring bass line in the verses that drops frequently like some pesky six-year old kept on unplugging the bass amp. Either that, or the guitarist got the final call on the mix. ‘Tunnel Vision’ rattles thunderously with a bass-driven intro, and rolling drums in the final, emphatic chorus.
I would never refer to myself as being a writer, because firstly, no matter how David Duchovny makes it look in Californication, just saying this to someone will not make them sleep with you, and secondly: David Monk manages to put into words these bizarre thoughts that float around all of our heads so acutely, whereas I am the aforementioned shambles. Tack that onto the fact that this band know how to write a catchy beast of a song and they’re on to something special.