Album review: TOY   TOY

“(…) TOY could have challenged us to a game of chess rather than lead us into a more conventional one of Monopoly.”

TOY – TOY (2012) 6.0/10

Heavenly Records

A few months ago, the UK based band TOY aired an eye-catching video of them covering extremely faithfully Daft Punk, Justice, Boyz Noise and Mr. Oizo  – a tribute not so much to their originality but more to their musical dexterity. After flaunting such an ability to reproduce some of the catchiest electro songs of the past few years with classic rock instruments, the five guys have decided to crank out their own musical produce with a debut self-titled album. Some singles had already acted as harbingers of the group’s potential such as “Left Myself Behind”. This first single features a very rock tinted vibe added to echoing guitars, which account for the band behind tagged as a psychedelic rock band. There is more to it, as the low-pitched vocals are unnervingly reminiscent of old school rock and hint at why the band is compared to bands such as Joy Division. This first LP is definitely influenced by classic rock as it features myriads of noisy distorted guitars, classic drums and slightly echoing solemn vocals. Yet however solid this musical basis may be, for a debut you’d expect more of a splash, a clash – something defining that would place TOY somewhere very specific on the musical rock map. And TOY unfortunately fails to do so, despite it’s being an enjoyable LP.

The main bulk of TOY is comprised of songs performed in the pure tradition of rock, featuring choruses of overpowering distorted guitars, which subdue monotonous low-pitched vocals – a style that can absolutely be appealing but that lacks ingenuity now that the 80s are over and that 2012 has seen striking reinventions of rock crop up. An since Toy had already proven it’s instrumental skillfulness we awaited something more than tracks like “Colours Runnig Out” or “The Reasons Why” which open the LP. The former starts out with a rapid beat and pervades your ears with a feel of classic rock all the more potent as Tom Dougall has that trademark rock’n’roll British accent. The track flies by in a rush on the wings of several distorted guitars without offering the possibility of the ascent to a climax or the suspense of a lull.  Similarly the latter track features the same guitars with slightly more upbeat vocals, which are also distorted in a fashion that is recurrent throughout the album. These characteristics reappear towards the end of the LP, in “Make It Mine” “Walk Up To Me and “Kopter” although each do bear their own particular features with different rhythms and paces. s

However musical redemption points the tip of its nose by the third track “Dead & Gone”. This seven-minute long track has a more minimalist take on rock as it’s fueled by an entrancing extremely regular beat. The vocals gain potency thanks to their echo and the bridge makes way for an explosion of guitars and drums, which finally reveals that the band doesn’t always pull its punches. The following song “Lose My Way” is a case in point of the boys’ potential: in its onset, the track features more echoing vocals but in the background this time, highlighting a clear cut guitar. The beat then picks up and the guitars reach to starry heights as the vocals slightly lift up from their usual low pitch. Finally, Toy losing its way is a much appreciate fact, as they seem to stumble upon a more interesting and different vibe, stepping away from rock loudness to glide towards a more structures pop rock feel. “Drifting Deeper” goes on to confirm that Toy isn’t just playing around : the vibrating notes that open the track and the tenor chorus convey a sens of eeriness hinting at a UFO invasion in the sound studio. The impression is intensified by the intricate and unnerving instrumental track that grows to be quite epic.

“My Heart Skips A Beat” lightens up this somewhat somber LP with a contrasting and much appreciated hand-clapped beat and violin sounding synth notes. It also plays to distorted rock guitars’ ability to make a song take off and take listeners along into aerial plains where Tom Dougall sings “from above” – proving that TOY could have challenged us to a game of chess rather than lead us into a more conventional one of Monopoly.