With three ex-members of swiftly imploding indie-poppers Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong on board, this London quartet have spent the last 12 months picking up rave reviews for a brand of psychedelic post-punk which shares more than a few strands of musical DNA with their much-heralded tour mates The Horrors.
There’s been plenty of discussion of the Krautrock influence on ‘TOY’ but titles like ‘Kopter’ and ‘Motoring’ aside actual songs still tend to dominate over grooves for the young five piece. Rather than Neu or Can more accurate touchstones would be The Cure and My Bloody Valentine, bands who married an independent aesthetic to the kind of grandiose romanticism which colours ‘Lose My Way’ and the eighties-ish ‘My Heart Skips a Beat’.
Like Faris Badwan’s bunch, at their best Toy make music which is epic yet starry-eyed; repeated rhythmic or melodic phrases spun into mantras, teased out then sucked back into the hypnotic chaos like stars into a collapsing black hole. Burbling basslines dominate ‘Colours Running Out’ and ‘Strange’, and although the experimentalism clearly owes its debt to 80’s alt-rock, it’s a welcome addition to their pallet. At the albums’ centre, ‘Drifting Deeper’s musical flourishes sound like Ennio Morricone adrift in space; a stunning instrumental whose gorgeous ebb and flow twists the group in its dark embrace.
Of the two longer songs which do find the group drifting into groove-based territory, ‘Dead & Gone’ co-opts the relentless forward momentum of Pulp’s ‘Common People’ but without Jarvis Cocker’s warmth and verbosity whilst closer ‘Kopter’ locks down a Hawkwind-esque space-rock groove of splashy drums and widescreen synth.
If there’s a slight criticism to be levelled it’s that Tom Dougall’s voice can be rather characterless. He lacks Robert Smith’s variety of phrasing and his brooding manner can come across as flat and facile rather than mysterious and compelling but fortunately his bandmates kick up such a swell noise that for the most part he’s carried along on the crest of the wave. One of the best British debuts of the year.