Album review by KevW
It was a bit of a bolt out of the blue that The Horrors' fusion of Krautrock, garage, vintage electronica and, more recently, baggy became such an overwhelming success, but then they had a couple of supremely executed albums to capture the public's attention with. So it was only a matter of time before labels went sniffing out other bands who were already (or subsequently decided) to explore similar realms. It was Londoners TOY who were first out of the blocks, surprisingly being made up of the remnants of Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong (no sign of where Mr. Lean himself is in all of this), with a couple of great singles and some well reviewed live performances. They seemed to have the sounds, the songs, the look and the timing just right. Yet when the album arrived it at first seemed a little bland, a watered down version for less experimental types. If The Horrors were a gateway band to the likes of Silver Apples and Neu! then TOY were nothing more than a gateway band for people who found Faris and co. a bit extreme.
While that particular claim still stands (TOY are to The Horrors what Editors were to Interpol, and in turn to Joy Division) the album does improve greatly once familiarity sets in. They'll do well to shake off the comparisons to that band, although 'Motoring' and 'Walk Up To Me' will be pleasing to fans of BRMC or Crocodiles and there's even a hint of Chapel Club here and there. The dark synths and motorik beats do whip up the right mood, but it feels a little more family-friendly than previous proponents of these psychedelic outposts. 'The Reasons Why' is great, as is 'Heart Skips A Beat' but they wouldn't be too out of place on daytime Radio 2, and 'Colours Running Out' is also impressive whilst being unlikely to offend your parents. These are very user-friendly portals into the world of Kraut and beyond. 'Dead & Gone' is a great introduction to the motorik beat and the sounds that go with it, but it's about twice as long as it needs to be and boredom sets in before the final flourish that injects the life back into it.
At points this is a case of style over content. It would be no great loss had 'Strange' or 'Omni' ended up on the cutting room floor, 'Lose My Way' is a routine indie song dressed up in psych production, still the tune's nice. When they do add more bite, as on 'Drifting Deeper' it sounds a bit like they've glued together some off-cuts found in a Berlin studio in the 70s, but again it's a decent enough listen. They can write songs no problem, 'Make It Mine' and others are very good, and let's be clear that 'TOY' is a very good album, but you can't escape the nagging sensation that if they were a little more daring it would be an even better one. On a plus note, it's better than the debut by The Horrors, so we may be a long way from seeing these guys at their best yet, and the excellent ten-minute album finale 'Kopter' suggests they're more than capable of taking these borrowed sounds and making them their own.
Stream the album in full at TOY's website
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