Sunday, September 16, 2012

Album Review: Toy - Toy

Album Rating: B+
Remember Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong? For most of you the answer will be a flat, definitive no. If, however, you read the NME around 2007 you'll know exactly where I'm coming from. The product of a particularly overzealous British hype machine, JL&TJJJ were essentially another average, landfill indie collective, the type we regularly dismiss and ridicule now that the genre is in the midst of a mainstream lull. Ironically, their eventual fate wasn't too far removed. With promotion in full swing and reviews piling in, the band canned their debut album upon imminent release, beginning something of a mini soap opera and causing much amusement among those unassociated. Tired of their frontman's antics, The Jing Jang Jong crumbled soon after, but that was only the beginning for Tom Dougall, Dominic O'Dair and Maxim Barron, who now make up three fifths of a markedly different outfit.

With such an undistinguished past, it's perhaps inevitable that Toy's emergence has been set against a tide of scepticism. Indeed when you add a vast stylistic u-turn into the equation, it's easy to harbour doubts, especially when issues such as 'authenticity' and 'legitimacy' are brought into play. The truth, though, is that the more you listen to their music the harder it becomes to give a shit, a phenomenon that's rife on this thoroughly triumphant debut LP.

A glorious entanglement of angular krautrock and reverberating shoegaze, this is a record perfectly portreyed by its artwork - a dense, colourful and fuzz-drenched cloud that's blissfully disorientating and oh so easy to become lost within. Both engrossing and expansive, most bands take years to forge this type of cascading psychedelic whirlwind, never mind with such a healthy dose of first listen accessibility. Critics will understandably point to parallels with former tour mates The Horrors, but far from a mere imitation there are plenty of moments here which give even their most popular superiors a run for their money. "Dead & Gone" for instance is the type of statement many a new act would kill for; a purposeful slow burner whose focus is used as a means of progression as opposed to restraint. "Reasons Why" meanwhile displays Toy at their most upbeat, its chorus floating atop a soaring synth-led crescendo that'll have even dream-pop's elite in a state of conscious envy. The crown jewel, though, is "Kopter," an incendiary 10-minute slab of swirling repetition which rounds proceedings off in some style.

It's the type of closer that makes you want to rewind and experience the whole thing again, even if at an hour in length it does contain a few bumps along the way. The mid section in particular would have benefited being shot of one or two of its less notable tracks, while the record as a whole can suffer from its lack of originality and diversity. You suspect that'll become less of an issue once the band develops, but for now at least they seem content to feed from their influences rather than create a sound that's recognisable as their own. It's a fine approach for the time being, but their ability to break the mould will surely go a long way towards determining any long term prospects. For now, however, it's best to leave speculation aside and revel in what Toy have already delivered - a consistently enjoyable and masterfully executed debut which, given past misdemeanors, already represents a step in the right direction.


Toy is out now.

Official Website


1. Colours Running Out
2. Reasons Why
3. Dead & Gone
4. Lose My Way
5. Drifting Deeper
6. Motoring
7. My Heart Skips A Beat
8. Strange
9. Make It Mine
10. Omni
11. Walk Up To Me
12. Kopter

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