TOKYO POLICE CLUB got a considerable amount of publicity for the debut record a while back which did a good job of combining early WEEZER with the more pop oriented JAM catalogue entries. Throw in some PAVEMENT and mix it up and you had "Elephant Shell". I was a bit surprised how often I went back to listen to their record and it made me anxious to hear some new stuff. Glad to say I was not disappointed with their new record "Champ". There is always that obvious move that many bands make to a more commercial sound on their second record that refines some of the edges and takes away some of the urgency of their early material. This is usually due to a combination of commercial desire, record label pressure and the fact that all the performing a band does makes them better musicians and that means a greater sense of harmony and melody.
Gone are a lot of the fits and hiccups of the last record and replaced by a stronger sense of song structure. "Breakneck Speed" and "Wait Up (Boots of Danger)" have that ready for radio accessibility that will get them airplay and commercial endorsements. (We will conveniently ignore the fact that the band once played on an episode of Desperate Housewives...that's just wrong. "Gone" has a bit of that Pavement sound which makes it a braver choice as a single. While the record is good, you wish they would let loose a bit. The punkier elements of the record seem a bit tame, like they are afraid to really hit those instruments and see what happens.
What does appeal is the slow build of the opening "Favorite Food" and the closing coda that is "Frankenstein". In both cases the band tinkers with their sound enough to suggest that they might be ready to really make a creative leap with their future work. That and the simple fact that these lads make catchy, poppy music for a sunny day will keep me coming back to their material again and again.