Tokyo Police Club at Washington D.C.’s 9:30 Club

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Tokyo Police Club at Washington D.C.’s 9:30 Club

by Jess Swarner

 

I was third in line at D.C.’s 9:30 Club with just four other people, waiting for the doors to open. Both couples were solely there to see opener From Indian Lakes, and they bonded over disliking the headliner while making plans to leave early.

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That was a weird way for me to start the show, because I was most definitely there to see Tokyo Police Club, a band I have long felt is extremely underrated – which that conversation seemed to prove.

But, little did I know, live performances can really change things. Sometimes when you listen to a band, you create a very clear image of them in your head – what they look like, how they act on the stage, the attitude they carry into the performance. And sometimes that image is completely wrong.

I was incredibly excited to see Tokyo Police Club, a band that has been around for a decade, but one I just got into a few years ago. I was really intrigued by their early albums about futuristic societies and later songs that described break-ups in quirky and poignant detail – I appreciated the unique stories they told when I found myself stuck in the middle of some pop punk monotony.

Tokyo Police Club is one of many, many bands whose sound has grown from indie to incredibly poppy in the past few years, but this time around, I didn’t mind at all. Even with the sickly sweet melody of “Through the Wire” and the completely unsubtle sing-along chorus of “Miserable,” I felt they hadn’t lost anything in the transition. That album – 2014’s Forcefield – still opened with the 8-minute epic “Argentina” and proved that the radio-ready songs were just for fun, not for good.

But I hadn’t expected the live show to be treated like a big party. That’s an idea I associate with acts like Matt & Kim, or Grouplove. Normally I would love to dance along to fun songs for an hour and a half, but that’s not what I expected from a band with a song like “Citizens of Tomorrow,” about a dystopian society.

But I realized about halfway through the show that I had listened to this band with an extreme amount of naiveté. That futuristic song that sounded so cool and advanced is really just a cutesy story about Mars and robots when you look closely. Somehow on tracks like “Favourite Color” off of 2010’s Champ, I was so struck by the touching attention the singer pays to his new love interest, how he wanted to know the first record she owned and how old her younger brother was. I embarrassingly soaked up that endearing sweetness, and when it was obviously sung live with no girl in mind, only a desire for the crowd to react and cheer, it felt almost (and irrationally, I know…) insulting.

I think part of the weird vibe came from vocalist and bassist David Monks seeming genuinely surprised that anyone had bothered to show up to see them. Granted, it was an early show, starting right at 6:30, but that attitude made a band with three great albums under its belt seem like it had peaked and was on the downturn, rather than gaining any headway.

I still enjoyed the show, no doubt – especially getting to hear three tracks from their EP “Melon Collie and the Infinite Radness: Part One” released just three weeks ago – but I expected a much more serious and emotional experience.

But maybe that’s my fault for trying to find meaning in a pop band.

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