London five-piece TOY have been positioned – whether they like it or not – as one of the most prominent bands spearheading a current psych craze that is filling more column inches than ever before.
Realistically, such fickle accolades should be taken with a pinch of salt and rather than portraying them as the poster boys (and girl) of a passing trend, it is surely a better approach to consider their output independently of this, in the hope that it will ultimately bear the fruit of a long lasting career.
Their second album Join The Dots was promptly released by Heavenly Recordings in December and marked a strong follow-up to their self-titled debut. It was unveiled little over a year after their first effort and very much follows the same formula, fusing the power and industry of krautrock with a synth-drenched psychedelic sound that peaks and troughs thrillingly.
Early gigs saw the dynamics of TOY’s wall of sound approach turned up to eleven from every corner of the stage – it made for a high-octane night out that left the ears ringing all the way to the office the next morning.
However, the quintet have now had a fair bit of time to hone their live show and come up with something that is much more of a melodic affair.
With that in mind, the choice of support for this 700-capacity gig at Manchester’s fantastic Gorilla venue could not have been more apt. The lo-fi pop of the The Proper Ornaments is a slightly more timid, but nevertheless enjoyable, appetiser for the evening’s headliners.
Featuring members from indie rockers Veronica Falls and Let’s Wrestle, they could probably be described as a supergroup of the most obscure kind. 60s inspired harmonies are sung in a much more muffled fashion that would have been the mandate of legends like David Crosby or Brian Wilson, but the jangle of a series of infectious guitar hooks mean the set very much has its roots in pop.
TOY take to the stage and are greeted by a packed out venue. The set begins in the same way as Join The Dots with the instrumental onslaught of ‘Conductor’. Conjuring comparisons to the likes of My Bloody Valentine and even heavier offerings by Can, the track demonstrates a confidence in the new material to get the audience going.
It is only when they launch into ‘Colours Running Out’ that the band unveil a sleeker, more harmonious sound that has overtaken the speaker-busting distortion that characterised inaugural performances.
Although the crowd appear relatively subdued for much of the night, it seems this is due to encapsulation as opposed to any kind of boredom, in the company of an act that come across as being more settled and having consolidated themselves as a five-pronged unit – each component of which compliment each other perfectly.
Former show-stopper and the last track from the first record ‘Kopter’ has now been thrown smack bang into the middle of the set, meaning rather than having to patiently wait for a frenzied crescendo, the audience are treated to the marriage Alejandra Diez’s swirling synth and Tom Dougal’s effects pedal earlier on.
But that doesn’t mean the later portion of the set suffers in any way – something that must surely be testament to the quality of Join The Dots.
An equally epic sounding rendition of ‘Fall Out Of Love’ is a highlight, but it is the krautrock beat and euphoric chord progressions of ‘Motoring’ that receive the biggest response from the crowd.
Being a band that needn’t rely on the suaveness of on-stage chat or elaborate showmanship to really impress, TOY are yet to arrive at a point where encores are they’re thing. Instead they simply bow out with the new album’s title track.
‘Join The Dots’ kicks in with a bassline that moves away from the mechanics of Kraftwerk, instead triggering memories of Donna Summer’s Giorgio Moroder-produced disco classic ‘I Feel Love’.
The performance has been one that proves, providing album three reaches the same high standards as its predecessors, TOY look set to be rocking venues up and down the country long after the psych invasion has been overthrown.