Last year, Ontario indie rock outfit Tokyo Police Club went in a poppy, fun-loving direction with the album Forecefield, which was filled with giddy hooks and brash rock riffs. Coming a little more than a year later, this debut solo EP from frontman Dave Monks acts as the sonic counterpoint to the energy of Forcefield, trading in synths and electric guitars for gentle acoustic ditties. With its low-key folk-pop tunes, All Signs Point to Yes bears some similarities to the solo material released by Monks’ Tokyo Police Club bandmate Graham Wright.
Monks’ quirky croon works well for folk music, as his delivery emphasizes the wistful sentimentality that has long been an undercurrent of Tokyo Police Club’s work, emerging from time to time in the quieter moments of songs like “Favourite Food” and “Argentina, Pts. I, II, III.” Those moments worked well within the context of the band’s buoyant post-punk; within these gentle acoustic surroundings, however, the results are sickly sweet.
“Gasoline” is a notable offender, its dorm-room guitar strums providing the backdrop for cutesy piano tinkles and the limp titular metaphor: “We could start a fire without gasoline.” It seems to be meant as a metaphor for love, but the listener is left wondering why Monks doesn’t simply use a match and kindling. The purring synth that enters in the second half is a promising throwback to Tokyo Police Club, but the song quickly returns to its polite folk rock arrangement.
“Heartbeat Blues” is even more cloying, its lyric sheet filled with juvenile complaints about being ignored by women. In what resembles a page torn from a 13-year-old’s diary, Monks sings, “Cheerleaders hate me / Librarians too / I look at them and they look at me as I / Realize they’re looking through / Shop girls ignore me.” A nimble guitar solo redeems the song somewhat, and it all culminates in a rocking outro that fades out just as its starting to get promising. And while closer “Summer Dream” is thankfully free of adolescent moping, its fantastical tale of everlasting love is similarly shallow.
The collection’s redeeming cut is “The Rules,” a piano rock number akin to the ‘70s-style ballads that have made Tobias Jesso Jr. so successful as of late. Part admonishing, part conciliatory, Monks guides a friend through heartbreak, singing, “Listen Michelle / He may never come back.” Later, he offers with a shrug, “Well, I don’t make the rules / I just play along.” Although the strings that swell up are an unnecessary addition, the track’s bittersweet mood is genuinely affecting, and a welcome respite from the saccharine sounds of the rest of All Signs Point to Yes. For Tokyo Police Club fans thinking of giving this EP a spin, all signs point to no.