Toy – Join The Dots

Toy - Join The Dots

Toy – Join The Dots

Thousands of years B.C. an old transcript was rumored to have been unearthed, outlining the basic precepts of how to succeed in the music biz. Since time immemorial, man has searched the deepest crevices and most towering mountains for said transcript. It is said to contain ‘The New Sound’ that has been consistently lusted after by perfectly coiffed, skinny-legged ragamuffins since music became a real, recordable ‘thing’ (that is, not a hatchet being scraped against a tin-legged chair).  Until it dawned on them that it was not, in fact, the sound that was sure to garner panty-throwing adoration and NME covers but the perfectly coiffed hair and skinny legs themselves.

So it is that Toy come to release their second album Join the Dots, a mere year after their seminal, self-titled debut album. It finds the East Enders trawling the grotty streets of 70’s Berlin and the gutters of industrial Manchester in atypically dull fashion.  Less indebted to the psychadelia of yore it sees the band tackling their sophomore album with moody prog rock noodling that does them no favours. “As We Turn” is a bloated, careless waltz through the cutting room floor of the previous album and the eponymous track has a fierce bass-line underpinning the tightly-wound eight minutes yet never propels them to anywhere interesting.

Contrived, haze-induced lyrics are part and parcel of being in a psych band, admittedly, but Douglass’s careless uttering of ‘Let your conscience go’ snaked around an unsatisfying and never-ending guitar line in “It’s Been Too Long” irritates rather than mind-bends and herein lies the problem.  Douglass’s devil-may-care stance and monotone voice gives the impression of disinterest rather than aloof professionalism and neutrality. While it’s undeniable that many of the effects and rhythm sections in the songs are impressive, their technical abilities cower behind the bands own ‘cool’-ness. Are they resting on their garage-rock image laurels and hoping for the best?

That’s not to entirely dismiss Toy as sneering poseurs. The wholly instrumental track “Conductor”, with cascading synths arpeggios and propulsive guitar sections, has an undeniably menacing pull. It ranges anywhere between early Prodigy and New Order and it is in these scratchy, electronic-tinged moments coated in helicopter-sound effects and haze-induced feedback that the record feels as urgent and necessary as its predecessor.  The baggy beats and Mad-chester swagger of “You Won’t Be the Same” has a last dance swoon and paisley-pop 80’s charm. The swooning effects and sultry bass in “Frozen Atmosphere” recall Pure X’s solemn dreaminess and “To A Death Unknown” is a melodic yet scuzzy treatise on mortality indicating, if anything, an expansion in lyrical imagination. The haunting, shoe-gazey “Endlessly” is My Bloody Valentine with a douse of motorik beats but where Kevin Shield’s pierced through the reverb and feedback, Douglass occasionally drowns in sound as though struggling to stay afloat.

There are a number of ear-worthy gems on the album but it’s difficult to muster up enthusiasm for a band that doesn’t seemingly have much enthusiasm themselves.  Where their neo-psych forefathers The Horrors built upon earlier experimentation to create something utterly unique yet completely accessible, Toy regress into wig-outs and noodling into a number of directions that never particularly end anywhere. There is a pervading sense of ennui that cannot be shaken, so sit tight and hope album three is a return to form.

Heavenly Recordings