The Edge recently had the chance to listen to new Welsh duo Toy Horses first single which was a little humdrum, but showed signs of promise. Former Wilco’s drummer, Ken Coomer, saw a spark in Toy Horses after stumbling across them on Myspace and flew them out to Nashville to oversee the recording of their first single and album. I hoped their album would encapsulate their potential and feel a little disheartened that this isn’t the case..
Clearly Coomer appreciates the band’s whimsical and occasionally pared-down sound; thankfully the finished recording doesn’t have that over-polished sound which can erode the undeveloped charm from artists’ early material. The standout track is the penultimate ‘No One’s Ever Gonna Leave You’ which can be certified as an excellent Libertines rip-off as opposed to the usual wearying indie fare listeners have put up with post-2004. ‘Loyal to the Cause’ is infectious enough to merit forgiveness for their brazenly stylized sound which is quite clearly modeled on The View.
Wielding these upbeat and mildly addictive songs in their repertoire, it seems Toy Horses missed an opportunity to appeal to Summer-minded listeners when they to choose the morose ‘And It Was You’ as their debut release. The more raucous songs are sadly overcompensated by slower numbers and I personally feel Toy Horses are at their best when cavorting around with unexpected timing; listen to ‘Damage Done’ which plays around with a mix of energetic and solid guitar rhythms. ‘Oh Violet’ and ‘Interrupt’ are lovely, lighters-in-the-air songs coloured with an Oasis influence, but I’m not sure many would miss ‘Love at Arm’s Length’ or ‘Last Chance’ if omitted from the track list.
‘Play What You Want’ evokes Art Brut’s 2005 release ‘Emily Kane’ with keyboards and trumpet-like guitar riffs. Repetition is the order of the day across the album; each and every chorus is never more complex than one line being reiterated several times over. Franklin chants ‘We’re doing the best that we can’ (which may or may not be the best way to set up expectations for the opening track on your debut album), but he sings with so much enthusiasm and self-belief that this is endearing rather than irritating. It might be the raving hype surrounding Toy Horses working its magic but you just can’t help but want to love this band. Perhaps this is what makes listening to this album such a bittersweet experience; it’s clearly full of potential, but just doesn’t quite have the edge to make it something special.
There’s certainly a number of cracking songs, yet these high points are curtailed by their lack of originality and the overwhelming sense that this is a sound we all have heard before. With a sound which is bound to appeal to a wide audience it frequently feels like Toy Horses are playing it safe rather than creating something new and exciting. But music doesn’t always have to be radical or genre-defining; so on the ‘meh’ and ‘yeah!’ spectrum, this album contentedly occupies a place somewhere in the middle. Toy Horses will get you through the summer – just don’t expect to be revisiting this record come September.
The album is out now and you can listen to ‘And It Was You’ and ‘Interrupt’ on their Myspace page.
Good: Ignore the single; the album contains plenty of untaxing feel good songs for the summer and an undeniably talented new band.
Bad: Nothing original or exciting enough to justify the hype.