Can you remember what happened on 5 April 2018? To refresh your memory, it was the day Mark Zuckerberg admitted to Facebook’s closer than expected scrutiny of our private messages. The UK lost two major sporting figures in darts player Eric Bristow and footballer Ray Wilkins. A suspected burglar died in Hither Green after a scuffle with a 78-year-old pensioner. It was the final day of the UK tax year, for completists among you… and it was also the day TOY wrote Sequence One, the first of 11 tracks making up the survival guide to everyday living that is their fourth album.
The context may sound overblown, but it is worth stating, for Toy are one of many bands of today to seek solace in music, to look for comfort from new grooves, textures and moods away from the political and practical horrors of the news. Sequence One certainly appeals from the outset, bringing krautrock and shoegaze together in its escapist groove but ensuring a very British tag remains visible on the outcome. It would have been recorded just a few miles from the scene of the burglary crime, in Streatham, South London – where the quintet have fostered the creativity and fluidity that powers this record.
While much of their music couldn’t exist without late 1960s psychedelia and ’70s Krautrock, TOY are much more than the sum of their influences. Unafraid to wear them on their colourful sleeves, they push for an instinctive and often uplifting approach. Energy picks up a lean punk groove and sprints forward with it, reverberant vocals providing the front of a soundtrack to the flashing lights of a London night. Like the lights, seemingly glimpsed from a fast moving vehicle, it loses focus amid guitar harmonics, with vocals that play across the stereo picture and a psychedelic edge recalling Clinic at their best. Also recalling the Liverpool band is the relatively static and slightly sinister Strangulation Day. “I live in a box inside your mind, tell you what to do and you do what you can,” goes the less than reassuring line over shimmering organ.
By contrast The Willo plays with texture like early Pink Floyd, its lazy Hammond organ circling like a colourful butterfly, but never alighting for long enough to fully appreciate its markings. It does however bloom into a substantial piece of music, its warmth evoking the strong sun of a sleepy summer’s day. This is the heat we glimpse in preceding track Last Warmth Of The Day, which also has an appealing wooziness, the sun low in the sky. TOY revisit this pastoral mood in You Make Me Forget Myself and Charlie’s House, two slow and dreamy reveries as the album runs its course.
You will have gathered from this that Happy In The Hollow makes a positive impact, its occasional loss of focus an asset rather than a fault as the music runs free. TOY make music notable for its mood, groove and texture, if not always finding a killer melody. It turns out 5 April 2018 was a decent day after all.