Graham Reid | | 2 min read
Few short-lived bands in New Zealand, indeed anywhere, have inspired such fierce loyalty and undiminished devotion as Toy Love.
Their career lasted little more than 18 months from the close of the Seventies – and a large measure of that was worked out in Australia – but in that brief, incendiary time they seared themselves into the consciousness of anyone who saw them.
Their strength was a unique amalgam of ferocious post-punk energy coupled to a pop-rock economy . . . and songs delivered in bitten off chunks. On record very little exceeded a sharp three minutes but of course in a sweaty live showing they had a combustible volatility which could be as theatrical as it might be threatening. Their songs – the odd cover thrown in – hit the head and heart simultaneously.
They were that rarity, they played like their lives depended on it and as if at that very moment they were the only thing that mattered.
And they mattered.
Here was band which had something to say by way of social commentary (Rebel, Pull Down the Shades), and while they could sound like an angry New Wave band (Sheep), they could also trawl through pop history for Sixties garageband rock (Who's at the Bottom of Your Swimming Pool), unfashionable hee-haw country (Bride of Frankenstein), gloom rock (Death Rehearsal) and student-flat love songs which came unfiltered (but with a weird twist as on Bedroom).
It was as if pop and rock history – and some bizarre, skeptical cartoon version of popular culture – had been distilled into the collective memory of this five-piece from the bottom of the world where they had individually spent their lives listening and listening . . . and unwittingly waiting for their moment.
When it arrived, it came with all the sudden and explosive brightness of a firecracker.
It was music for outsiders and the disaffected, but was also inclusive and – at a time when so many New Wave contemporaries took themselves very seriously indeed – just a whole lot of intense, fast and heretical fun.
Toy Love called it quits just when we needed them most. They arrived as the furiously inventive late Seventies morphed into the increasingly decadent and self-obsessed Eighties.
They would have had something to say about that.
And we would have listened. They would have made sure we had no choice.
Toy Love were that kind of band.
So it is entirely fitting they should be inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame in 2012.
And -- following their limited edition double vinyl live album (see here) -- there will be another double vinyl release of Toy Love's music in November, along with a DVD of their clips, television appearances, interviews and the like.
Mainstream fame never really beckoned for Toy Love, but a whole hall of it now has.