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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Toyah - The Blue Meaning

Name: Toyah
Album: The Blue Meaning
Year: 1980
Style: New Wave, Experimental
Similar Bands: Patti Smith, Kate Bush, Ultravox, Alison Moyet, Siouxsie & the Banshees
One Word Review: Emotional Cartoony Theate
Based Out Of: London, UK
Label: Safari Records
The Blue Meaning - Cover, Record
 The Blue Meaning - Back, Sleeve
The Blue Meaning - Sleeve, Record
The Blue Meaning (1980)
  1. Leya 8:15
  2. Spaced Walking 2:20
  3. Ghosts 3:29
  4. Mummies 2:58
  5. Blue Meanings 5:03/
  6. Tiger Tiger 3:19
  7. Vision 4:06
  8. Insects 2:44
  9. Love Me 3:02
  10. She 6:03
Album Rating (1-10): 6.0

Members & Other Bands:
Toyah Willcox - Vox, Producer, Cover (Tony Banks, Sunday All Over the World, Kiss of Reality, Kim Fowley, Family of Noise, Humans, This Fragile Moment, Stranglers)
Steve James - Producer, Arrangements
Joel Bogen - Guitar (Desire, Jem77, The Good Strawberries, Esperanto, Jai, A Flock of Seaguls)
Charlie Francis - Bass (The Clairvoyant Society, The Hides, Lost Boys, Rawhides, 2 Die 4, High Llamas, Thurman, Minus 5, Poney Express, Idha, Dream City Film Club, Obi )
Bill Smith - Cover
Gered Mankowitz - Cover
Steve Bray - Drums (The Boyfriends, The Byron Band, Lambrettas, Trapeze Good-Bye-Ee)
Perry Morgan - Engineer
Pete Bush - Keys, Trumpet (Leya)
Porky - Lacquer Cut

Unknown-ness: I've never heard of Toyah. From the cover and back, I imagine something between Annie Lennox/Eurythmics and Siouxsie Sioux. The castle gives it a dark air, but the neon and pink hair give it a pop, upbeat vibe, still rooted in goth. 

Album Review: Toyah started by bouncing around the punk scene in London, after spending a lot of time in theater, trying on some bands that were embarrassing, finally settling on a band with her name. She is married to King Crimson Guitarist Robert Fripp, and has been for over 30 years. But she is much more than just a musician, as she has written two books, and appeared on stage, screen, and film. The band was only active for 6 years, producing 7 records.

“Ieya” was a single about believing in mankind enough to become our own god. It has a mystical, synth, future-fantasy feeling. The vocals remind me a little of a delicate Debbie Harry. The vocals are very theatrical, changing pitch and tone almost from syllable to syllable. The sooth and cry out from word to word. They growl and croon, presenting a tension that strengthens and relaxes in a random pattern. The music is driving, blending guitar, synth and bass in a cohesive soup. Eventually the lyrics devolve into chants of na-na-na-na-hey and Zion Zuberon, Messiah in a squeaky, screeching voice. The whole time, the Ieya chant is sun in the background, keeping tempo. The song fades out, and only the synth remains at the end, peppered with some yelling screeches.
 “Spaced Walking” was recorded, mostly improvised while experimenting with helium, obvious from the squeaky vocal effect. Vibrating synth and watery ticking percussion start the song off, and the helium influenced vocals sing and speak over the melody. Even without the helium, it would be a weird song. It fades out and the listener is left with the confused feeling if the song actually happened, or was a dream.
“Ghosts” is a pretty straightforward song, with a buzzing synth, and driving drum tempo. The vocals are bold and theatrical again, never yielding to one style. But all of the vocals are emitted with confidence. There are many catchy sections of the song, strung together in a structure where you are not sure which one will appear next. The song ends with a cathedral organ sound, spooky, and echoing, that slowly fades out.
“Mummies” begins with a marching, side to side cadence of ringing guitars and pulsing drums. The vocals don’t match the melody, but float along. The instruments all coalesce into the bridge, which emerges from the murky depths of the rest of the song as a structured and very catchy hook, which a whispering vocal underneath. It stops short of one final catchy hook that the listener might expect.
“Blue Meanings” is more like a beat poem, sung-spoken vocals over brooding synth notes. A drum beat begins, but the song is perpetually stirring and waking up, in a creepy tone. Bipping synth notes make up a Clockwork Orange section where the vocals find a stabler marching melody than in the rest of the song. The vocals grow more emotion toward the end, as a soaring guitar provokes the summoning vocals.

“Tiger! Tiger!” starts with a theatrical, musical style of piano over an undefined bass and drum beat. The vocals are very sing song, and it could easily be seen as an emotional song from a musical. The tone of the song continually builds, as if it is climbing to a reachable pinnacle. Even the chorus makes it feel like the top is very close, but yet the song cycles through and continues to climb.
“Vision” has a slinky, swaggering pace, with synth notes played out of place. The song then hits the chorus and finds a driving groove with a purpose. It is only short lived, as it runs out of steam and hits back into the verse. This recipe repeats, with the chorus lasting a little longer the second time. And the song continues with those two aspects, changing it up a little bit, but not adding anything new.
“Insects” is about fans clamoring to touch and grab at her, as if their hands were creepy crawly insects. Is another beat poem sung over a two note slap bass line and Gang of Four guitar effects. The chorus again gives the song cohesion, and the instruments are given a chance to rock out together. While the verse is just trying get back to the chorus. Behind the lead vocals is a haunting tonal “Ohhhh-Ohhhh.” The bass line accompanies with the guitar reminds me a little of Oingo Boingo’s song with the same title.
 “Love Me” begins with a very 80’s synth / ringing guitar combo. It, accompanied by the overly theatrical vocals evokes a mystical atmosphere and marching time signature.
“She” begins with a standard drum beat, and then an authoritative synth effect that reminds me of an XTC song I can’t quite remember…the vocals are layered in the back, whispering and pulsing as another instrument might. It is quite hypnotic of a hook, repeating endlessly (aside from a few breaks for the chorus). The percussive vocals take importance from the timing of their execution, rather than melody or style, kind of like an Adam Ant song. The loop changes very little, but circles the drain continuously. The song really loses its footing as it winds down, breaking into parts, and dissolving as the seconds tick by.

Stand Out Track: Ghosts


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