Toy, The Shacklewell Arms, London
Tuesday 07 February 2012
There's a dark and backcombed shadow that looms over innocent young art-rock hopes Toy, shake their shiny manes as they may on this tiny stage.
Championed by Rhys Webb, keyboardist/bassist/stylistic architect of The Horrors, they're nearing the end of a month-long residency practically in the actual shadow of the studio in which that band's recent top-five album 'Skying' took shape. They've toured with Faris and co, and if the '60s-style oil-wheel projector that illuminates the wall isn't the same one from the Horrors nearby den, they probably recommended a good vintage lighting dealer.
If they've got in with the in-crowd early, though (signed to Heavenly, a label that helped define the loose grooves of the early 90s), this lot are no impressionable ingénues. Three of their number have already served time as part of Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong, the great lost indie hopes of 2007 whose album was bizarrely shelved on the eve of release, and singer Tom Dougall has played guitar for his sister Rose Elinor.
If The Horrors' influence sounds strong, with similar lunging, swaying swells of guitar and hypnotic, motorik passages, it's only one of many guises that Toy seem to be working through, with songs taking stylistic shifts from shoegazing sounds that bring to mind early Spiritualized or Ride to softer, more melodic 90s- US-indie-tinged fare. When we say 'working through', mind, they're incredibly polished, perhap off-puttingly so for such a new band – amid their smoothly driving, shoegaze-tinged psych-rock you yearn for some of the chaos and jaggedness that marked, ooh, say, The Horrors' earliest gigs. They look the part too, with their floral and butterfly printed shirts, keyboardist Alejandra Divez every inch the Factory 60s vixen, Tom Dougall as freakishly, bonily beautiful as a young Jason Pierce drawn by Edward Burne-Jones. But beneath their deadpan, slick-maned froideur, there's a core of solidly structured, arresting rock songs that, with more time and self-possession, threaten to become something remarkable. After all, the music press quickly wrote, to pick a random example, The Horrors off as mere pastiche, a hairsprayed-together collection of influences with no core. Look what happened there. If Toy are given room to grow and not choked off, Lana-like, by early over-exposure (there's – we hope – fans down the front getting the band to sign their only release to date) they'll soon become a band not to be trifled with.
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