TOY rose from the deserved demise of the embarrassingly named Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong, who released a few derivative indie pop tracks in 2007. Leaving Joe Lean not to take Dolly Parton’s man, but the part of Olivia Coleman’s brother in Peep Show, TOY released their eponymous debut album in 2012 to critical acclaim. The album signalled the growing maturity of indie rock toward the end of the noughties, containing musical references to My Bloody Valentine, Neu!, and Syd Barrett era Floyd. TOY’s 2013 album, Join The Dots, followed down the same pattern, however TOY exhibited their vast adaptability with their 2015 Bat For Lashes collaboration, Sexwitch. Natasha Khan’s vocals were imperious as ever and TOY offered themselves as a compellingly eerie basis for her screeches. TOY had risen from the shadows of fellow post-punk revivalists such as The Horrors.
Clear Shot is the first TOY album to include new synth player Max Oscarnold, who replaced Alejandra Diez in 2015. Comparing the album to the band’s previous works, the synth sounds certainly fit less seamlessly with the band’s staple guitar lines and motorik drum beats. The first single, Fast Silver, includes organ sounds mixed with soft piano lines. The song’s Charlatan’s inspired 90s nostalgia vibe is eclipsed by the brilliant Another Dimension. What seems like a simple guitar driven new wave track changes tempo into a slower, sing-a-long, synth led chorus. The clever shift shows Tom Dougall’s clear ability to write a memorable chorus. I’m Still Believing is a track that Another Dimension first seems to be, the beat could easily be played by motorik master Klaus Dinger. Though the chorus follows comprehensively from the verse, you’ll certainly find yourself singing “so simple so fine, she perfectly read my mind,” after only a couple of listens. But the album’s stand out track is Clouds That Cover The Sun. Dougall’s disciplined vocals follow the lead of the guitars up and down, transporting us back to psychedelic classics like Arnold Layne. It seems that the band is at the height of their powers when Oscarnold’s synths take a back bench approach, instead of trying to overpower the magnificent guitars.
The album fizzles out a bit after the its apex of Clouds That Cover The Sun, but Dream Orchestrator and We Will Disperse are perfectly enjoyable and energetic punk tracks. The album finishes in true TOY fashion, with the building tension of seven minute track Cinema. Noise and chaos take centre stage here, superseding the tight knit efforts of the previous nine tracks. Oscarnold’s disorientating synths finally find their feet, and the track’s controlled mess leaves us without the satisfying conclusion that we know TOY are capable of. It would be too easy to leave us feeling contented, Toy prefer to reduce their album to glorious ashes.