Review: TOY @ The Haunt, 19/11/2016

The Verse’s Lorenzo Ottone writes about how he faced Storm Angus and managed to witness TOY’s return on stage following the release of new psych-grungy album Clear Shot.

The North Sea’s wind has nearly ripped the skin off my bones; I would prefer to have beer instead of water in my boots when I get to The Haunt. It is the night of Storm Angus but a numerous audience of braves have faced the bad weather to cheer the comeback of local heavy psych band TOY.

To open the night was JC Flowers, a six-piece that especially captured the eye for the diversity of members on stage. At first sight, it could have been hard to guess the genre of this heterogeneous band: the female singer looked like she was straight out of Paramore, while the electric guitarist and keyboardist – with his leather trousers and fishnet top – could have come out of a crossover band of glam and gritty punk ‘n roll. Not to forget the acoustic guitarist, sat in the background, as a 70s psych-folk Canterbury songwriter picking strings. Together, the band have a common psych-y heavenly sound background about them, but add a little more to the persuasion; jangling hooks and the presence of both male and female vocals make the band stand out, giving a certain Velevet Underground diversity to their sound. The use of vibes and a 70s Korg synth adds a further distinguishable note.

Though good, the band struggles to win the attention of the audience, clearly waiting for TOY. When the Brighton act comes on stage, volume and distortion knobs suddenly increase a plethora of notches. TOY transport the crowd to a cosmic voyage which rather than a lysergic trip is a heavy, fuzzy and distorted symphony. The material of the three albums mixes together in one flow, with Clear Shot’s tracks emerging for their nearly grungy and krautrock attitude.

The band’s sound is dark – as dark are their outfits and the atmospheres evoked. With his black coat and long blonde hair, bassist Maxim Barron breaches the stillness of the performance, moving back and forth all across the stage, capturing attention with his massive body size (which presumably gained him his nickname, ‘Panda’). Drummer Charlie Salvidge showcases the band’s love for 60s psych by sporting a 13th Floor Elevators tee. Singer and guitarist Tom Dougall, with his Fashion Week-like prominent cheekbones, provides the vocal skills, which in this instance lack any high pitches. Because of this, TOY’s sound results slightly too monotonous and gloomy, losing the cleanliness of studio recordings. Songs Another Dimension or My Heart Skips a Beat with their crescendo benefit the performance; the impression is that TOY in fact need more of them, if only to help the vocal skills which seem to be limited to low and dark sounds. The songs constantly grow in pace but often fail to burst into memorable refrains.

As ever, debut album hits strike a chord with the audience – Motoring and My Heart Skips a Beat (one of the few soft moments of the night) confirm the rule. TOY proved their success gathered in the last four years is all deserved, as their sound – although not so easy to assimilate – stands for its own and set the pace for the psych revival which burgeoned in the last couple of years. Oh, and they look cool enough to justify spending money to see one of their gig.

The Verse Staff

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