The Clash-meets-Strokes promise of TPC’s jagged, hurried, fascinating, awesome debut EP A Lesson in Crime resulted in 2008’s Elephant Shell, disappointing at first listen but somewhat of a grower, a Strokes for rockers thing. The LP was far more accessible than the EP, so much so that there was (almost) the real danger of some of it being usable in corporate-hip environments like Friday’s and movie theater lobbies. With careful, calculated song arrangements, though — too-short choruses, songs ending out of nowhere — the band retained a lot of their hipster cred, staying just low enough under the big-radio radar to be thought of as a guilty secret pleasure.
Champ is a great album, combining that under-the-radar-ness with growth — they’re now a cross between Strokes, Oasis and Glasvegas, a complete slam-dunk, but for the most part big radio still won’t know what to make of the (only slightly) unconventional arrangements. “End of a Spark” is a deadly little ear-worm, something you’ll rewind as many times as you did Oasis’ “Roll with It” (yes, I’m being presumptive, crazily assuming that you like terrific songs), but overall this is evolution, not a complete reboot, at work: on “Breakneck Speed” you’ll hear sing-songy harmonic simplicity that can be traced back to “The Baskervilles” and that took its first (more bold) steps in “Nature of the Experiment,” and there’s more My Bloody Valentine amp-destruction than ever (jeez, if “cross between Strokes, Oasis and Glasvegas” didn’t get you, you seriously, seriously need a break from classic rock).