Since their emergence from the flames of Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong, East London based five piece TOY have rapidly moved from landfill indie to exciting fusions of kraut, pysch, C86 jangle and shoegaze. TOY now lead the way in nuevo kosmiche rockers, taking with them a plethora of other twisted psych-pop bands (see The Proper Ornaments, Telegram, Temples etc). Tonight’s gig comes after months of solid touring (including a major US and European tour and seemingly every music festival ever), and by the looks of it they are a little ‘tour-worn’, but they battle through both fatigue and some dodgy sound with customary professionalism.
Shrouded by trippy oil slide projections which spit out sickly purple, orange and white splodges of colour, they begin with eight minutes of freak-beats in the form of “Conductor”. Live, tThe metronomic rhythm, driving bass and spooky guitar sounds of this instrumental are even more dramatic than on record, its hypnotic swagger proving to be perfect as an intro.
They make some odd choices during the gig, such as dusting off b-side “Clock Chime” and missing out a fair few key tracks. It’s understandable that with the amount of touring they’ve done since Join The Dots’ release back in December they’d want to shake it up a bit, but there’s no “Left Myself Behind”, “Dead and Gone” or “Colours Running Out”, and even their poppiest track “Motoring” fails to get a look.
There’s also a bunch of the best tracks from JTD missing. The likes of “Endlessly”, “Too Far Gone to Know” and “Left to Wander” are bizarre omissions, especially since they find space for undistinguished tracks such as “Frozen Atmosphere”. Luckily TOY have enough to play with (yeah, I know…) and fill the set with some of their older tracks, some practically ancient at three years old. “My Heart Skips a Beat” is still woozy and romantic, and “Kopter” remains a whirlwind of shoegaze noise held together with Charlie Salvidge’s impressive human drum machine sounds (see Stephen Morris). These sit perfectly with more recent songs such as the spiky “It’s Been So Long” which almost prompts the entranced audience to actually show some element of movement.
It must be weird for TOY. They’ve never really had an expressive audience; they prove to be as nonchalant a crowd as Tom Dougall is a front man. When an audience member shouts “Where’s the atmosphere?”, little does he know that there’s 600 feet being tapped in unison to the music. This piece of unconstructive criticism seems to spark something in TOY and for the final third of the set they really lose their shit.
Instrumental “Drifting Deeper”, though somewhat throwaway on their debut, is dark and oppressive - like Joe Meek remixing the moment the shark arrives in Jaws. But it’s the closing coupling of “Fall Out Of Love” and “Join The Dots” where TOY finally let go. A less song based segment than the rest of the set, it gives them the opportunity to thrash out and perform tracks of length, and the longer the song, the more TOY are able to convey what they’re really about (especially on “Join The Dots”, where they’re joined with two additional guitarists and threaten to break the track down into a thrilling “Holocaust Section” style piece of noise pollution).
The Lexington is the venue where TOY performed their first gigs that caught the attention of a wider audience, but it’s abundantly clear that it’s a room that can no longer accommodate their sound. Alejandra Diez’s Korg synthesiser work, the very sound that makes the band quite so good is all but lost, and Dougall’s vocals, which are normally vague anyway, are buried underneath the guitary, bassy stew. TOY are one of the best live acts in the country, a band who excel in repetition and layer their sound with intricate detail. Smaller venues no longer do them justice.