The stage is set for TOY at this intimate, free, get-there-early-or-go-home-unhappy album launch show. The stage, it is quickly apparent, is too small – both physically and musically.
The former causes you to wince as bassist Maxim Barron barely misses implanting the headstock of his guitar into the face of keyboardist Alejandra Diez on several occasions. The latter makes listening tonight a bit like watching a gathering storm through the wrong end of a telescope. Something over there is hugely powerful and damn impressive. It’s just a bit too much over there.
This stops it from being as enveloping as much as it should be, because TOY’s second album very much picks up where the first one left off. Yet more in the way of songs which descend into squalling, My Bloody Valentine-esque windtunnels of noise, having first softened you up with neat, melodically poppy introductions.
But while the tracks get epic, vocalist Tom Dougall’s intra song chat remains somewhat clipped. “Thanksforcomingtonight” he says, in a period of time in which most other people would have barely enunciated the first consonant. Still there’s no time for banter, not when there’s reverb to bask in and climaxes to reach. And boy, can TOY do endings. The one which brings the whole set to an end this evening (during Join The Dots) is jaw dropping. But there are also plenty which are magnificent all the way through.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of the setlist is drawn from the new record, but they do still play some of their (barely a year old) debut. From it, Kopter is spectacular. Looping around itself like a trefoil knot, it pounds relentlessly, propellent upon beat and driving bass to thrilling effect. Of the tracks from album two, Too Far Gone To Know is glorious, with an expansive, star-gazing, sense of gob-smacked wonder. Fall Out Of Love is pacier and lighter of foot, with a wonderful mellifluous swoop of a chorus that leads the song into another explosive all out guitar attack, while the grinding machinations of Endlessly is delicately draped with synths to head spinning effect.
All of which adds to the frustration in feeling that it remains slightly out of reach. But you do get the impression that the problems tonight are not of TOY’s making. In a different place with a different configuration they will be truly dramatic. TOY deserve bigger stages and not just because it would prevent one of their number starting the new year with a splitting headache.