Toy Horses - Toy Horses Album Review
Toy Horses are Welsh multi-instrumentalist duo Adam D Franklin and Tom Williams whose internet promotion won them the attention of ex-Wilco member Ken Coomer with whom they jetted off to the US to record this, their self-titled debut album with.
The album opens with 'Play What You Want' which suggests an instant 'sixties feel reminiscent of The Kinks and The Beatles. Within its first few seconds of typical guitar/bass/drums/vocals blend, the track chops and changes from its original pace to a double time, rapidly spoken, Madness-type feel, then chops into a piano accompanied interception before the fuller chorus with split vocals pushes the track forward in a much catchier vein. At the same time as the 'sixties influence, there's also a whiff of The Feeling, Scouting For Girls, The Hoosiers, and similar contemporary, feel-good, catchy pop. The multi-instrumentalists' talent, both instrumentally and vocally, is clearly showcased from the off with this busy, chopping and changing sound which fuses a mixture of feels into one track; there's unfortunately an immediate feeling of an overdose of variety, somewhat unsettled and uneasy. There's the same mixture of lots of feels and a whole showcase of instruments in 'Sordid Little World', which opens as a strummed acoustic guitar ballad before layers of instruments build in, and its honest, storytelling lyrics bring to mind the likes of Babyshambles.
Opening with an a capella vocal introduction, 'Damage Done' then continues in much the same vein with the full band pounding in and then chopping back to electric piano accompanied vocals as like a stop verse, before a brief change into a strummed guitar accompanied passage and then back again, though second time accompanied by a funky reggae-like bass. Eventually the track crashes into a full band chorus, then into a simple instrumental and back into another chorus. The fact that the music chops and changes around so much really does detract from the songs themselves, they never settle, just prove Toy Horses' blend as a melting pot of variety that's not yet been refined. 'Last Chance' offers something of a brief exception to this hectic chopping and changing, as a strummed acoustic guitar accompanied ballad that, though predictable and familiar sounding, contrasts the over complicatedness that precedes and follows; simple two men, two guitars and, towards the tracks' conclusion, a gentle suggestion of tambourine. Short lived contrast though, 'Loyal To The Cause' crashes straight into a full band feel.
Later, 'Love At An Arm's Length' begins a more down-tempo, gentle ballad before distorted vocals echo in the mix over a more determined, aggressive, pounding accompaniment. The track then quietens out once again with gentle glockenspiel highlights, and gradually builds layer by layer through to an instrumental which brings the track to a fuller close. 'Oh Violet', another track which opens with strummed acoustic guitar accompanied vocals, initially brings to mind Plain White T's' 'Hey There Delilah', but then plunges into a similar well-worked pop rock groove like much of the rest of the material on this self-titled debut, though perhaps with a weaker, more bland and repetitive melody than other tracks.
The album concludes with 'Interrupt', the single released alongside Toy Horses' self-titled album. From a smooth string ensemble opening, 'Interrupt' then lilts into a gentle verse, with delicate vocals accompanied by piano and gently strummed guitar before the strings return during the heartfelt more moving pre-chorus and chorus. The track has powerful, tear-jerking kind of sensitive verses with much a much heavier plunging chorus and glissando strings reminiscent of Oasis' 'Whatever. Like much of the rest of the album, different feels continue to interrupt and intercept each other throughout Toy Horses' concluding track, whose title, 'Interrupt' seems to sum up the plague of the whole album. An album that's well produced with lots of potential and showcasing clear multi-instrumental and songwriting ability, Toy Horses just need to refine the chopping and changing to make the pop songs that they're intent on making much more listenable.