Share STITCHED UP!! THE SONGS OF TOY LOVE REVISITED - Various Artists (Burning Sky Records)
New Zealand band Toy Love was a familiar name but their music less so. I knew a couple of tunes but not many, even though they'd spent a good part of their short two-year lifespan in Australia.
In the interests of due diligence, before writing this review I did what any self-respecting denizen of the Internerds would - I stole (downloaded) a copy of "Cuts", the definitive collection of their work. Played back-to-back with this eclectic tribute by bands from most corners of the globe the experience underlines (a.) Toy Love were worth the fuss and (b.) "Stitched Up!" is multi-faceted thriller with next to no filler.
Toy Love main-man Chris Knox was a well-known export to Australia in the late 1980s, plying an avant grade style of music in inner-city pubs. Toy Love played punk rock with lashing of new wave, imbuing their music with hooks galore and that quirky, edginess peculiar to many NZ bands of the time. A lot like this compilation on a little label from Seattle, USA.
"Stitched Up!!" runs the full spectrum. It goes lots of places. Your head may spin. There's the tearaway, cut-up aural punk anarchy of Russian band The Alex Blinov Singers ("Fast Ostrich"), rippling and caustic Spanish R & B ("Green Walls") from Amelia Ray, a jazz-pop band from LA called Satre's Lobster ("Photographs of Naked Ladies") and the trans-global reformation of old school NZ punks Proud Scum ("Pull Down The Shades"), who recorded in studios across three continents.
Australia's Cool Charmers contribute one of the best versions of a Toy Love song, a razor sharp "Don't Catch Fire" that does immolate one nearly five minutes. Vince Cuscuna's guitarwork is a treat. A bunch of 19-year-olds in an English band Nomad 67 are up there with them with their cover of "Squeeze", which pulses with the same urgency as the original.
One of the heaviest moments is "Death Rehearsal", with a well tuned-down rifferama version from New Yorker DA Karhos. Sweet Diss and the Comebacks' take on "Rebel" that follows is almost a lullaby by comparison. It's also artfully rendered.
Heavyweight Kiwi talent Don McGlashan (Mutton Birds) chips in with a bustling "I Don't Mind" and is lent assistance by Shayne Carter (Straightjacket Fits) and Neil Finn alumnus Sean Donnelly.
Tributes used to be thicker on the ground than cover bands at a corporate convention but seem to have faded from view recently. To be honest, the expectations were low with this one hence it's heartening to be so impressed. The CD comes in an over-sized sleeve that'll take you back to a time when lettering on packaging was legible.
There's a thick booklet inside that lays out each band's reasons for covering what but it could have done with some links to current websites. A small criticism of a worthy package made all the more poignant with the news that a proportion of sales will be going to assist Chris Knox recover from a debilitating stroke. Buy a copy here. - The Barman
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