English psychedelic/shoegaze/krautrock act Toy are coming up to a decade in their existence, and, following the critical acclaim that greeted their fourth album Happy In The Hollow back in January this year, they turn to the songs that inspired them for this eight-track covers album, Songs of Consumption. It includes tracks from diverse artists such as The Troggs, Serge & Charlotte Gainsbourg and Nico. They got the idea from the 7” bonus single of covers that accompanied the Dinked and Rough Trade versions of Happy In The Hollow, and three of those are included here.
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'Songs of Consumption' sounds as if Alan Lomax stumbled upon TOY at a Shoreditch burlesque show on a cold October night playing requests for the leather-clad patrons. He appears to have set up his tape recorder and simply let it run.
TOY are one of the doyens of a London psychedelic scene that blossomed around 2012 and is now but a distant, cherished memory. Seven years on from their near-perfect debut album, November 2019 sees the release of 'Songs Of Consumption', a collection of covers recorded in a variety of home studios. This record is a somewhat uncomfortable listen. It reminds me of Solid State's classic (at least to me) 'Space Museum' that was recorded in a shed and has a brilliantly squashed, clinical atmosphere. 'Songs Of Consumption' all sounds great, of course, but the arrangements are skeletal and rough-hewn, even cold. It's definitely the bleakest thing the group have ever done; guitars have been stripped away and electronic percussion favoured over acoustic.
'Song of Consumption' feels intimate but not in a comforting way. It's always interesting to hear a group take a more DIY approach but this record feels like a voyeuristic peek into an uncomfortable domestic situation. They cover 'Lemon Incest' and transform it into a song about love, 'Always On My Mind' into a song of obsession and control. The latter is an album highlight, it feels more muscular than the Pet Shop Boys version to which theirs is indebted to. It really showcases the vocal talents of Tom Dougall who has always brought an original edge to the music. His voice is reedy and almost unsteady but has a strange, bristling power. Their take on Amandah Leah's 'Follow Me' is another highpoint. A beautifully wistful number, it's got those cold ticking rhythms that define this record's sound and vocals that sound like Tim Booth at his most winsome.
There are little hints to exciting new directions yet to reveal themselves, with 'Sixty-Forty' beginning like a minimal techno track and 'A Doll's House' having a wonky freak-folk feel. On 'Songs of Consumption', as well as past records 'Clear Shot' (another near-perfect album) and 'Happy In The Hollow', TOY seem to be gradually, like the woman on the cover, submerging themselves into deepening gloaming. Keep going!
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