I bought a new TOY for Christmas. As soon as I received some prized iTunes vouchers as a present I knew I had to download the second album by Toy, despite having read some indifferent reviews. Having heard the almost ubiquitous and insidiously catchy lead single ‘Endlessly’ all over 6Music, I knew this is a band that would reward persistence. It’s a song which comes close to the moreish “My Heart Skips A Beat” from their instant first album Toy. Join The Dots however is a trickier proposition.
Opener “Conductor” is not so much a song as a prologue. It’s supremely confident to open a second album (or any album come to that) with a 7 minute Neu-fused jam that centres around one bass note, and no vocals, but I see this not so much an opening salvo as a slight return, literally joining the dots from the last album’s epic closer, the kosmiche “Kopter”. I think it’s best to look at the work of Toy as one seamless sea, coming over in waves, sometimes big enough to breach the huge stone beach of Chesil, and other times tranquil as the pond at Victoria Park. They are very much about mood rather than songs, give or take the odd pop gem which almost acts as a mood breaker the way that the bombastic empty worded fool Pistol acts as counter point to the ambiguous war-mongerer Henry V. And by Jove Toy are just as English to the core.
Ok, so some of their prog leanings are possibly third hand San Francisco meets Can via the Paisley Underground revival via their mates The Horrors, and in that sense this second album could be compared to the awkward yet strangely prescient introversion of MGMT’s follow up to Oracular Spectacular. However if you look at the mournful sepia tinged death of industry on the cover art – you can feel the month of Sunday greyness of The Smiths, and if you listen carefully to the sometimes almost nursery rhyme like lyrics, there’s an echo to the “Scarborough Fair” quaint English folk that influence Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel way back when, particularly on the first vocal song “You Won’t Be The Same”. There’s also dare I say a slight glance if not gaze at the shoes in songs like “To A Death Unknown” and “It’s Been So Long” that recalls Ride and the much underrated Catherine Wheel.
It’s not been a big gap between the making of this second album but I see that more as a sign of a restless work ethic rather than impetuousness, and since Toy were mostly born from the ashes of the abortive and a tad embarrassing Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong, it seems that at last they have found their groove. And it’s a psychedelic one at that. In anticipation of a new album by the inventive Horrors later this year, it will be interesting to see whether they are still locked into a similar one as their one time prodigies. I’ll make no bones, Join The Dots is no classic. However as the title suggests, this album is leading onto something more and we all know a Toy is for life not just for Christmas. 7.7/10
Listen to ‘Endlessly’ below