Dolfinz/PAWS/Sex Hands/Waiters: Song, by Toad Split 12" (Song, by Toad)
The astute amongst you will recall we already reviewed a gig featuring the four artists on this release (here). Now the album itself has dropped & true to form it's full of jangly guitars & indie wonderment. Read on for a full review.
I think I first heard of this Split 12" on Edinburgh's Song, by Toad when Matthew (Mr Toad himself) Young hosted an acoustic gig in his house. None of the contributors to the record played that evening in February (it was Adam from Randolph's Leap and David from Kid Canaveral since you asked), but post-live music the stragglers were treated to an impromptu airing of the test pressing of the record. To a man, we were pretty impressed, particularly as every song was recorded live in the room we are standing in.
In the intervening months there have been plenty of opportunities to familiarise oneself with the bands that contributed to the Split 12". There was a mini tour to launch the venture, which landed in Edinburgh last month and which I attended (words can be found here). Until I laid my hands on the physical product (which looks fantastic - front and back nods to old jazz records, the inner sleeve is a mosaic of beautiful reportage style photography and the slice of teal vinyl itself is stunning) I only had the memories of that test pressing to go on, so I was eager to get the real thing on the turntable to refresh my memory. For ease of review I'll take each bands contributions to the record, rather than the running order, which mixes things up.
For no particular reason, I'll kick off with Sex Hands, the Friends obsessed Mancunians, and their songs. The rather topically titled 'Gay Marriage' opens their contribution and is a brilliant slice of guitar music. The drums are down low in the mix, while the guitars dominate with varying textures. One picks out notes and riffs higher up the scale, while another jangles along keeping things ticking over. The bass slots in perfectly, setting a nice steady tempo with the drums. It's a very good start. 'The One Where The Stripper Cries' slows the tempo down a little. There's a delicious drone on the guitars that permeates the whole sound. Again the drums are steady and keep things ticking over. The lead guitar screeches away creating some nice sounds that act as a counter to the fuzzy rhythm guitar and overall droning quality to the sound. The sound kicks up a notch on the brilliantly paced 'Chandler in a Box'. The components that are present in the other tracks are still here, but the rhythm section kicks into overdrive here. This is insanely catchy and downright enjoyable to listen to. There's a nice, driving bass and the drone is there, but more controlled. Superb. 'Days of Our Lives' just goes in for melody and distortion, with the title repeated over and over in the vocals. The jangle is in evidence again and sounding sparkling. Drums and bass again keep things going, while that lead guitar sounds as manic as ever, but fit it all together and it sounds bloody great. I want more Sex Hands!
It's off to the North East of Scotland next, specifically Stonehaven. from this seaside town hail two young mammals called Dolfinz. First up from these guys is 'Jennifer Finch'. A song that blasts into life with treble heavy, distorted guitar and thumping drums from one time PAWS drummer Gav. The energy these guys expends comes over in spades in this track. The vocal sounds like it has a little echo on it, while drummer Gav adds some harmonies that are in direct contrast to his thumping drumming and machine gun fills. Great stuff. 'Kitsch Craft' is another track heavy on distortion and feedback, before the vocal comes in. The interesting thing here is the vocal sounds very out of place within the overall sound, almost coming across as dream pop while drums thunder around it. The impact the music has after the verses is heightened as a result. You feel like you've been beaten by drums and a guitar by the end, but in a good way. 'Teenage Bloom' opens with a brilliant, warm guitar intro and settles into a great rhythm. Vocally, it sounds very much in the mould of early Nirvana. On the chorus the feedback and distortion kick in, further adding to the grunge feel. When the verse kicks back in the drums and vocal clean up and it sounds excellent. This is probably the most rounded and conventionally structured song the pair have on the record and to me it shows they know exactly what they're about because it's one of the records standout tracks. Things slow down on 'Sisters', with a nice guitar intro but the mellow vibe doesn't last long. You can almost feel them straining to get out the blocks and sure enough the song crashes to life in a blast of feedback and big drums. Vocals again sound excellent and the influences can be felt, but never too much. This is very much their own sound. You just have to remind yourself there's only tow of them creating this beautiful racket.
Sticking with Scotland, it's the new boys at FatCat Records, PAWS. 'Kill a Familiar' marks the first song they contribute and it flies off the blocks, dripping with barely (and sometimes not concealed at all) venom. The drums pound away, while the distorted guitar wanders up and down over it all. The bass fairly skips along with the drums and altogether it sounds rather splendid. I've yet to hear a bad song by these guys. I wouldn't want to be the person this song is about though. "Oh how I hate to rain on your parade/your inadequacies must fill you with shame". 'Clementine' keeps the pace high, opening with a lovely guitar riff, before the drums and bass come thumping in. It's a struggle not to bop around the room to this one. When the song hits the chorus the bass guitar really shines, but through the verses you can hear it thrumming with life while those drums stay hit. 'Chair' isn't actually a PAWS song. Originally recorded by friends of PAWS, Big Deal, it's one they cover live quite a lot. On this version, the vocals are overdubbed. One with some distortion on it, the other clean (at leasy that's how my ears interpret it). There's a great rhythm section again, with some nice changes of pace, while Phil's guitar rumbles away sounding good. Not a whole lot to complain about on this record so far, this song included. Brilliant as ever. PAWS final contribution is 'Cherry Blossom'. It's a fairly epic sounding instrumental. The bass hangs onto notes, drawing out there power and impact, while the drums crash back and forth with varying degrees of intensity. There's no small amount of feedback on the guitar and the whole song reeks of power that's barely contained. It's quite an epic way of closing out the PAWS segment of the record (it's also the final track of the whole thing).
Last, but most definitely not least are another Manchester band Waiters. 'So-So' opens with some really nice sounding guitars and some sparse drumming. There's a steady tempo and a good vocal. The song builds and about halfway through the tempo starts gathering pace, before settling down again. Vocally, there's two voices acting counterpoint to each other that works really well. 'Vacillate Wildly' starts at a mid-tempo pace and has a really good bass feel to it. The drums are again spartan, picking their moment to give maximum impact on the song. The guitars sound great, dominating the song with an incessant sound that runs right through the song, while the vocal floats away above in the ether. infectious would be a good word to describe the song. 'Lacquer' is a tad more urgent than the previous two songs. The guitars are sharper, while the drums feel a lot more involved and faster. Vocally there's more intensity as well. The tempo is higher as a result and the song fairly skips along. emphasis in those guitars, which sound fantastic, sitting somewhere in the vicinity of The Fall or Pavement at times. The tempo drops off at the end leaving one guitar picking out notes, while the other chimes in and out. Excellent track. 'From Now On' closes out Waiters contribution to the Split 12". There's a more ponderous pace to this song, with some feedback on the vocals giving them a supernatural feel as they flit in and out. The guitars sound a little discordant at times, while the bass sounds nice and weighty underneath. The drums sound nice and crisp, keeping the tempo ticking over. Another cracker on what is overall a faultless record.
Song, by Toad Records have managed a minor miracle with this release. To get two great guitar bands together, have them record live in your house and it sound this good would be something. To get four of the best guitar bands in the UK and do it is astounding. Each of these bands approaches music in four slightly different ways, resulting in a wonderfully diverse and compelling release. It's no lie to say that on my first few listens to the record, the best moments came from every band involved. To capture these bands at the top of their game and immortalise it in vinyl is nothing short of a miracle. Bravo Song, by Toad Records.