Toy – live review

Camden Barfly, London
February 7th 2012

First things first: early suspicions that Toy could be some kind of mere Horrors tribute act are completely wide of the mark. True, they share certain passions and sonic twitches with their similarly pop-obsessed friends, but whereas Faris and co built their now widely-admired psychedelic wash on a love of ’60s garage, Toy evoke everything from Joy Division (clues: singer Tom Dougall’s stark guitar strokes; bassist Panda choosing to play a fragment of Isolation during the soundcheck), to late Eighties wigout merchants The House Of Love.

With their 1969/Rolling Stoned aesthetic they look brilliant in full flow, Tom Dougall and fellow guitarist Dom O’Dair shrouded in dry ice as they lock into a series of thrillingly intertwined and invariably elongated grooves. Debut single Left Myself Behind captures this exhilarating sense of release perfectly as, driven by Charlie Salvidge’s looping drums, the song builds to a crashing peak, keyboard player Alejandra adding definitive texture to a wall of sound that echoes – unselfconsciously – both the melody and mournful euphoria of Love Will Tear Us Apart.

There’s also subtlety in Panda’s soft, almost subliminal backing vocals, sung from behind a curtain of hair, along with a secret weapon in the form of the band’s majestic Korg Delta synth, played by Alejandra, her vintage instrument bringing a Seventies snarl to the band’s already beefy brew.

Tom is effortlessly cool with a shy charisma that – combined with his fragile but absorbing vocals – brings to mind The House Of Love’s Guy Chadwick at the height of his own band’s brush with fame. There are remarkably well-formed songs here too. In fact, at times you find yourself mentally assembling the band’s debut album as their frequently dazzling reportoire is unleashed.

And yet there is also a slight suspicion that Toy enjoy those drawn-out guitar jams too much, perhaps even – sometimes – to the detriment of the tunes. At times you feel that when a song starts they’re killing time, waiting for the moment a few minutes in where they can again crank up the guitars, lower their heads and lose themselves in shimmering, multi-layered riffage.

But it’s a minor criticism, because as you immerse yourself in this magnificent noise, the band’s energy and unforced charm brushes any reservations aside and leaves you yelling and clapping like you’re sixteen again.

Amazingly loud, hairy and beautiful: Toy will fill your heart with joy.

Heavenly Records are currently offerring a free 2 track Toy download

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  1. I saw Toy recently, supporting Ulterior. They were OK, I suppose, once you’d got over the singer’s, erm, vocal limitations. Some people reckon he can’t sing a note. Not so, I say. He *can* sing a note, and a damn fine note it is, too!

    For me, Toy are what Oasis would be like if they’d opened the influence book at ‘Velvet Underground’ instead of ‘Beatles’. An acceptable, don’t-rock-the-indie-boat version of a more interesting original.

    Somebody at the Ulterior gig shouted at them, “Play Sister Ray!” – and there were plenty of chuckles in the crowd at that. But in a way, they *do* play Sister Ray. There’s a bit of it in every Toy song.

    There have been plenty of bands around London doing broadly similar stuff over the last few years – not least The Horrors, once they’d abandoned garage punk and bought an album or two by La Dusseldorf. (The Horrors assimilated krautrock rather well, actually, although you can virtually identify the exact albums they’ve been listening to…)

    Then there’s Ulterior themselves, of course, who have engineered their own four-way speedfreak pile-up between Neu, Suicide, the Velvets, and post-punk era Sisters of Mercy. They pull it off brilliantly, and with a fine disregard for indie acceptability.

    Toy are far less spiky. If Ulterior soundtrack your amphetamine psychosis, Toy are the warm, muzzy, musical comedown. Maybe that’s why they got the attention of the music biz: while Ulterior are clearly spoiling for a fight, Toy just want to hide behind their fringes and do their thing. Even the name – Toy – is fluffy and unthreatening. Toy are *acceptable* in a way Ulterior definitely are not.

    Now they’re being shoved at us via all available channels, from BBC 6 Music to the NME. Good for Toy, obviously, but I’m already becoming annoyed by their ubiquity. They’re strictly class-average, but already they’re *everywhere*. The PR guys have obviously been busy.

    To it credit, the NME did flag up the band’s embarrassing past. To an extent, it seems, Toy, are a hasty reinvention after their much-hyped original effort fell on its arse: httpss://

    Lucky old Toy, eh? Getting two bites of the music biz hype-cherry when so many bands never even get one. But right now it seems they really are The New Band Everyone Is Supposed To Like. Personally, I’ll sit this one out.

    Interesting that even Louder Than War – which hardly needs to follow the mainstream path – is on the Toy bandwagon too. I can’t remember LTW ever covering Ulterior, who are everything Toy are – but louder, faster, better, gloriously stroppy, and resolutely underground, too, which surely puts them bang in the middle of LTW’s territory.

    I’ll chalk this one up to the PR guys, I think. Like a kid on Christmas morning, I’m already bored with this new Toy.

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