Toy at The Shacklewell Arms 25 – 1 – 12

January 27, 2012

Toy take to a stage flooded with the lava lamp projections of a Ken Kesey happening. They look part- long hair, 60s gear, pointy shoes, classic synths. The strong image accounts for one reason the room is packed for tonights gig. The old generation have turned out– Bobby Gillespie and Tim Burgess are in the thick of the crowd, craning away with all the hipsters to see The Next Big Thing. The question is; What have they got?

There’s a bit of a dodgy opening- a few chords nicked from a 60s space ship, a bit of a Joe Meek riff, some reverberating screams of synth then it all peters out. No one’s sure if the band are still soundchecking or just noodling. A pause, a click of drum sticks and suddenly they begin proper. The motorik rhythm section in Toy bursts into pumping life, bass and kick drum taking the metronomic sensibilities of Can or Kraftwerk and beefing them up to a rock n roll growl. Swirling around this bedrock the band wash psychedelic reels of euphoric melody, dense layers made by twin guitar and keyboard, with every inch of frequency covered, whilst singer Tom Dougall’s languid voice cuts through. ‘We’ll take you on a ride’ he intones in his best Lou Reed.

At their best the band take their cosmic vibes and push them to the kind of anthemic levels last seen in the days of baggy, 60s psychedelia pegged to looping dancing rhythms and elevated by insistent riffs. Forthcoming single Bright White Shimmering Sun is a high point, it’s high, nagging guitar melody soaring like a Teardrop Explodes classic played in a canyon, like a perfect hit in the making- and it draws Toy’s set towards a triumphant conclusion.

On the down side, there are moments when you can’t help but crave a bit of space- the band have undoubtedly got the ability to pick out subtle passages, and Dougall’s got a great, charismatic voice- but this gets lost in the wall of sound they favour, and exhilarating though that may be, it can feel one dimensional. Still, they have mastered this dimension, and tonight Toy showed themselves poised for great things in 2012.

Here’s a video from an earlier date in their Shacklewell residency the sound on the recordings a bit weedy, but you get the idea—

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