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Toy Love - Live at the Gluepot

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Artist: Toy Love

Album: Live at the Gluepot

Label: Goner

Review date: Nov. 29, 2012

From their start to their finish, Toy Love lasted less than two years. In that time they played heaps of gigs in their homeland and some more in Australia. Those shows, and especially the snidely charismatic demeanor of their front man Chris Knox, are the stuff of beery, teary legend, but let’s face it; this is a band that couldn’t get its live sound onto its records and that got ground down playing the suburbs of Sydney. When Knox and guitarist Alec Bathgate reunited a couple years later as Tall Dwarfs, they used Toy Love as their what-to-not-do template — no big tours, no major labels, no recording in studios, nothing that stank of rock and roll business as usual.

Toy Love may be legends in their native New Zealand, but in their time they were just another chewed up, spat out rock band.

Live at the Gluepot was recorded one week before Toy Love packed it in, and it’s undeniably marked by music biz mastication. “2nd To Last Song That T.L. Ever Wrote” is a recitation of resentments against managerial pressure. But tired though they might have been, they also had enough professionalism to put on a pretty solid show. Knox’s between-song patter is full of snark, but anyone who has seen him with Tall Dwarfs or on his own might be pleasantly surprised with how pithy he is. The songs are likewise to-the-point; these guys weren’t so beholden by punk that they only played like the Buzzcocks or Ramones, but they did keep the songs short and (mostly) fleet. They weren’t exactly labored over; many are barely-concealed rewrites. “Good Old Joe” rides on Link Wray’s “I’m Branded” riff, “Swimming Pool” is a Dylan spoof, “I’m In Love” sounds a lot like the Stooges’ “TV Eye,” and “Green Walls” is basically the Doors “Five To One” with a bit of Black Sabbath guitar laid over the top. But just because those licks are ill digested doesn’t mean they’re no fun. Cranked up and delivered with a gleeful sneer, they’re just what punk rock was back in its heyday — snotty fun.

Once Toy Love quit, its members went on to other things; bassist Paul Keen is in the Bats, while drummer Mike Dooley and keyboardist Jane Walker have played in plenty of lesser-known bands. Spread across their country and plenty busy in the present, they didn’t even bother to reissue their studio recordings on CD until 2005, so the fact that this soundboard recording spent so long on a shelf is more a measure of the Toy Love’s collective disinterest in its past than the recordings’ merits. Turns out it’s pretty solid, not just as a window that opens onto bygone era, but as catchy, blunt instrument rock and roll you can enjoy right now.

By Bill Meyer

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