For a band so young, TOY are already saddled with so many journalist clichés it’s as if there’s a template dished out to reviewers which contain the words hair, Krautrock, Neu, the ridiculous word motorik and the bands Joe Lean and The Horrors, a few sentences are then just chucked in between them.
Joe Lean and co rode on the coat-tails of Arctic Monkeys and came across as a cleaner looking version of The Libertines with better guitar playing, however once the hype subsided the band crumbled pretty quickly and judging them by their released output, they would have ended up on the scrapheap of other landfill indie such as The Others, Brother, One Night Only pretty quickly (Hello Spector).
The trio at TOY’s core are guitarist’s Tom Dougall, Dominic O’Dair and bass-lord Panda who were also the Jing Jang Jong to Joe Lean’s fake indie posturing bullshit. After ditching the crummy lead singer and the barely functional drummer, Dougall shifted from his spot on stage left to that of lead singer and TOY were born, thus creating the most exciting thing to happen to UK rock for a some time.
The Neu! and krautrock references are misguiding; these are pop songs made by a group with a great record collection (definitely vinyl), they are using krautrock as a base for their music similar to the way David Holmes or Death In Vegas did on their last albums. If there is any musical stylings that bear a resemblance to Neu it’s down to Charlie Salvidge’s robotic style of drumming, however his mechanical 4/4 patter is more reminiscent of the live techno beats of Stephen Morris or the hip hop indie swing of Lawrence Colbert during his Ride days and provide the throbbing heart of what TOY are all about.
Throughout this debut album Dougall’s lyrics are as evasive as his stage presence but when he chooses to let us know what’s going on such as on the storming opener ‘Colours running out’, they’re either half sung statements (in the same way as Lawrence from Felt/Denim) or lyrics about settling scores. Over waves of Kevin Shields influenced guitar wails and surprisingly funky bass lines he indignantly declares his joy of someone being “exposed for what you are, I didn’t think you’d learn”, his dressing down results in him exasperatedly declaring “And now you ask me, to help you, to work it out!”, the annoyance is as clear as the identity of the song’s subject matter, it’s salacious and as good an album opener you could ask for.
It becomes apparent pretty quickly that TOY are most effective when they are playing at length, many of the songs here sound like the result of long jams where they find joy in repetition, ‘Dead & Gone’ and the closer ‘Kopter’ are fine examples of this. The former is dark and mysterious, claustrophobic and overbearing. Without concentration it may sound like nothing much is going on but these tunes are full of intricate detail. The bass thunders along, multiple guitars thrash against each other, another lead guitar riffs a psychedelic ‘Paint it black’ influenced line, it’s druggy, obtrusive and utterly compelling.
Dougall, mainly absent on vocals throws in an occasional sentence here and there then halfway through, a crescendo of shoegaze noise takes over, this then makes way for their not so secret weapon Spanish synthstrel Alejandra Diez who chimes in with a riff half ‘Silver Machine’, half burning fire engines in hell, the drums continue to crash while all five of them give their instrument of choice a serious going over, it’s an exhilarating and utterly exhausting listen.
‘Kopter’ is cut from the same cloth, Panda unleashes the kind of bassline you find on European electro records by Vitalic or DJ Hell while the rest of the band battle to make the most noise, the final five minutes of synths release unbridled amounts of euphoria. Both tracks are shattering to listen to and it’s a relief when they finally end but within seconds you’re hitting the rewind button to delve in again and again and again.
Back to Diez, it’s her work throughout this album that lifts the sound into the realms of magnificence, completing the music in the same way Candida Doyle operated in Pulp. The fairground effects on ‘The reasons why’, the cheeky nod to Human League on ‘Make it mine’, the sheer loveliness on ‘Lose my way’ which makes bile fuelled lyrics such as “I Won’t use my time to pine for you every day, you never felt the kind of pain that I went through, now it’s coming for you” sound warm and romantic but it’s on ‘Motoring’ that her skill is most apparent. It’s a fun song sung with a straight face, Dougall announces “If you wanna ride, we’ll take you for a ride’ in such a joyless matter of fact kind of way that the answer to that offer is obviously no. It‘s TOY at their poppiest, the main chiming guitar riff is lifted from ‘Day Tripper’ but Diez’s retro keyboard work here is sublime.
For TOY to show off their influences in such a brazen way whilst managing to make an album which sounds very much like their own work is no mean feat, the next one which will merge late 70’s Eno with The God Machine and rare unreleased Tintern Abbey tracks is gonna be a total and utterly brilliant headfuck…bring it.