Brit-pop revivalist outfit Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong disbanded in 2009. Three of the band’s members – Tom Dougall, Dominic O’Dair and Maxim Barron – have gone on to form psychedelic indie-rock five-piece TOY. The group’s self-titled debut, produced by Dan Carey (Franz Ferdinand, Chairlift), exhibits a multitude of influences ranging from shoegaze to krautrock. However, TOY’s aesthetic is deceptively dark: the band repeatedly rely on their pop undertones to create an interesting contrast between moody post-punk and colourful psychedelia.
It is obvious why some have noted TOY as possible protégés for The Horrors. Both bands have the ability to create truly hypnotic soundscapes. Despite this, the protégé label remains because TOY have not yet reached their creative peak. The extended krautrock grooves they forge on tracks like Dead & Gone and the 10-minute epic Kopter are impressive, at some points even becoming reminiscent of krautrock legends Neu!. However, there are moments when the grooves feel monotonous, if only for short periods. Kopter builds tension tremendously well, and swells with an expressive euphoria only seen in fragments on the rest of the album.
Tom Dougall’s moody vocal lines are overpowered by the interplay of guitars on some songs, yet are perfectly suited to tracks like Motoring and Lose My Way. The former is one of the album’s strongest tracks, with catchy hooks and an invigorating momentum. The latter is somewhat darker, yet also uses its dynamics to build and relieve tension.
Lyrically, TOY is quite personal, even heavily emotional at times. On Lose My Way Dougall cheekily mentions ‘I never thought I’d lose my way over you / What did I do? / You never felt the kind of pain that I went through / And now it’s coming for you’. There is a great cross-over between this lyrical style and the group’s psychedelic tendencies. It appears that the band can be overcome with a certain melancholy, yet also make light of otherwise stark situations.
At nearly an hour in length, TOY’s debut suggests that the group is in no way lacking quality material. There are short spurts of experimentation on the album, most notable on the two instrumental tracks Drifting Deeper and Omni. Both are dark, yet also somewhat playful, and frame the album’s progression quite well. It is this contrast between light and shade that maintains the album’s momentum and emphasises the band’s ability to be surprisingly dynamic.