Release Date: Sep 25, 2012
Record label: Heavenly
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
It's been a long time since a band has released a debut album as cohesive, appealing and enjoyable as this self-titled work by London, England's Toy. Comparisons to various guitar- and rhythm-heavy bands of the past 30 years run hot and heavy, but the quintet holds up under scrutiny. From singer/guitarist Tom Dougall's speaky vocal delivery to the barrage of keys and strings and dreamy, psychedelic bits, there's a lot to captivate us.
What does one do when one stops jangling? It’s a question Toy personnel Tom Dougall, Dominic O’Dair and Maxim Barron must have asked themselves in 2008, when they found themselves as the Lehman Brothers of a rapidly crashing indie market. They were members of Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong, a band so jovial even their name sounds like the peal of bells. But despite critical acclaim and goodwill from indie-loving teens nationwide, the musical landscape changed around them, their album was pulled before release and the band split soon after.There is, tellingly, no jangling to be heard on the debut album by Toy, the band comprising the trio of JL&TJJJ exiles plus Charlie Salvidge and Alejandra Diez.
The stars weren't aligned for Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong. A "next big thing" in 2008, their debut album never even got released. However, three members of the band – singer Tom Dougall, guitarist Dominic O'Dair and bassist Maxim Barron – have regrouped as Toy and upped the game entirely. Friends of the Horrors, they have a similar style to that band's second album, Primary Colours: motorik krautrock and psychedelia.
Toy's name, implying a certain level of childhood fancy, is appropriate. The band's music does conjure up images of pubescent teens jamming out in their bedrooms, first instruments in hand. But one imagines that Toy's band members were never allowed the sheer decibel power that they now possess as adults. Splitting the difference between My Bloody Valentine (walls of guitars), early Sonic Youth (walls of punk-leaning guitar), and The Jesus and Mary Chain (walls of Velvet Underground-like ennui), Toy's self-titled debut bears the mark of a well-stocked record collection.
After hearing TOY's self-titled debut, it's not surprising that the band has ties to S.C.U.M. and especially the Horrors, since at several points this album sounds like a rougher version of that band's breakthrough, Primary Colours. All three of these groups mix shoegaze, Krautrock, and psych-rock in a hypnotically swirled blend, but TOY sounds like the scrappier kid brothers and sisters to those more established bands -- in a good way, mostly.
The first thing you may have heard about Toy is that three of them were the Jing Jang Jong to landfill indie false-starter Joe Lean. It’s a fact they seem intent on relegating to a piece of trivia rather than their backstory. Interestingly, although the Jing Jang Jong were clichéd to the point of ridicule, they withdrew their hotly-anticipated debut album before it hit shelves, apparently because they felt it didn’t represent their artistic development.
Proteges of the Horrors, east London's Toy are a band whose sonic sweet spot alternates between the psych-rock of the late 60s and the pedal pile-up of late-80s indie; their tempo, meanwhile, evangelises a slower 70s krautrock. Toy's debut is, then, invariably sown with three decades of deja vu. Running to 58 minutes, there are inevitable longueurs, too, where the five-piece nod rather than soar.
You might, at a stretch, remember Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong. Back in 2007, the heyday of Razorlight (no sniggering at the back) the London band attracted quite the press frenzy, but after endless dawdling and faffing about, they failed to deliver the goods, with a debut album that never materialised. The whole thing became a comedy saga, there was even a longstanding column in one publication dedicated to the whole affair titled ‘number of weeks without a Jing Jang Jong album.’ Eventually it fizzled out, along with the short-lived band.
"Psychedelic" is too obvious, too restrictive a shorthand to describe Toy. But the term - widely deployed by journalists to date in attempting to sum up the band - is accurate as far as it goes. Almost every track on this debut LP is underpinned by a churning, disorienting fog of processed guitars, buried organ work and echo that testifies to their commitment to sensual derangement, visual as well as aural; last week the Quietus revealed how the album was recorded amid a barrage of lasers and smoke machines, recreating the heady atmospherics of Toy's live show in the studio, the better to capture the right feel and mood, and inspire a charged performance.
Strongly tipped Londoners deliver their stunning debut album. Camilla Pia 2012 The less said about three of TOY’s previous dabbling, as the Jing Jang Jong to almost indie icon Joe Lean, the better. A youthful blunder, by all accounts. Besides, it’s more worthwhile to forget their murky past and focus on the scintillating, smart psych rock they’re currently making.
London band Toy are the latest musical act from the UK to cross the Atlantic on a tidal wave of hype, although it isn't the first time for most of the group. Three quarters of the line-up used to be in the equally unfortunately named Joe Lean & the Jing Jang Jong four years ago, although their debut album was pulled by the record company just before it was due to be released. This time, however, there's some solider talent backing it up.