“It’s good to be back.” This is the refrain from “Breakneck Speed,” the best song on Tokyo Police Club’s third album, “Champ.” It’s also the single. And there’s a reason for that. But before I get to explaining, let me say this:
Tokyo Police Club’s first, short album, “A Lesson in Crime,” was brassy and ballsy. It was a group of postpunk kids jumping up and telling Franz Ferdinand that anything the RIAA’s neu-alt-rock-machine could do, TPC could do better. It was Peter Parker playing in the same arena as The Justice League. It was brash. It was tons of fun.
But it couldn’t sustain. It’s not that “Champ” is a bad album, it’s that it is a dull album. There’s nothing new here, nothing different, just a bunch of clones–pieces of past triumphs, bits of riffs and familiar themes and lyrical devices. And if you’re going to name a song “Frankenstein,” at least try to make it as interesting and choppy, as exciting and driven, as the Edgar Winters Group classic. And that brings me to the single. Breakneck Speed is the track to sell “Champ” because it sounds like every other song on the album, only much better.
I’m not saying don’t buy “Champ.” It’s far from terrible. I listened all the way through, twice, in fact. If you like their old stuff–I mean really, really like it–then this one won’t bother you, either. But if you’re waiting for them to deliver on the promise of their first album, keep waiting. This isn’t your mail call.