What is it with these goth-pocolypto-moon-gaze bands? It's all musical siblings, crystals and distracting celebrity relationships. Oh! And fringes. Oh! And you know the song 'Losing My Edge' by LCD Soundsystem and its lyrics about being at every key moment in musical history? Well, the goth-pocolypto-moon-gaze kids all seem to have been at all of them. I know! The chronological impossibility of it! And yet they were. They weeeere!
So, (bearing in mind we've just abandoned logic with all the panic and paparazzi of Madonna abandoning a swastika exhibition at L’Assemblee Nationale) logic should dictate a frenzied crisis of maniacal schizophrenia in hipster music. But, no. No, no, no. This is not the goth-pocolypto-moon-gazer way. Any semblance of order in their frame of reference is not an option. Genres are scattered and collected at random, like the oblique strategies they are, before being woven into a big, messy blanket and then cut up into five minute pieces, stamped with a track number and a title and sent off to Cherish or Maya or Alice in Digital for hip online distribution and promotion.
Is there anything there beyond citing as many cerebral and/or critically acclaimed musical junctures of the last 53 years?
Thankfully there is. What we have in Toy is a beautifully powerful ramble of an album with at least six tourist attractions and beauty spots of songs to gawp at along the way. The repeat-pause-release-explode middle section of ‘Dead & Gone’; the tiny, organic, cave dwelling soft-stroke of ‘Omni’; the sinister, devil-may-care monster-truck chicanery of ‘Drifting Deeper’; the space lullaby of ‘Walk Up To Me’; the intense, twitchy Motorik behemoth of ‘Kopte’, not to mention the brilliantly preternatural single: ‘Lose My Way’ – they all stand there in statuesque grandeur, waiting for you to whip out your i-Phone, take photos and WhatsApp them to 50 million people at once. Which you will. This is the sound of a band with massive scope, stood on the ecstatic cusp of infinity, paying no regard to anything that would threaten their horizons.
No one involved will want this comparison to be used but it's inevitable so fuck yous. Where S.C.U.M. project themselves with squelches, bubbles and poncey, 'I am very definitely a swan' hand gestures, Toy give off an unrepentantly forthright sneer. The S.C.U.M.’s Again Into Eyes may have more odd textures, triggers, pedals, whatever, but Toy preserved their essence by recording this in a few days under a railway arch or something in South London, with a mate (Dan Carey) who happened to have stolen a Neve desk. And it works. It works because they have songs. Tender songs that are delivered powerfully and through prisms. (Even MBV, who are probably the weightiest reference point here, were prone to forgetting to include these in their oeuvre.) Where S.C.U.M. waft their poetry nonsense so that it lands gently on the relentless rock face like an awkward, pointless mist, Tom Dougall has carved proper melodies into the landscape with smart syncopations and pauses. It is, in fact, the more spare orchestration across the album that ensures that the string motifs and pseudo-choirs on ‘My Heart Skips A Beat’ and ‘The Reason Why’ really force the issue of these being pop songs and not just a collection of rumbling power wig outs from another bunch of skinny white boys who know how to pronounce 'Einstürzende'.
And if you don’t believe me, spend some time with this:
8Didz Hammond's Score