Toy, Birmingham 20-10-12

Indie psych-rockers Toy caused a bit of a sensation last year supporting The Horrors on tour, but now they’re in Birmingham as headliners. Tonight they show us that the hype was fully justified and just how good they are.


I’ve been in the HMV Institute many times, but never in the room they call ‘The Temple’. Rather than a temple, it can more accurately be described as the HMV’s attic broom cupboard. While the room is small and intimate, the stage is minute and a fairly desperate affair. We also find out during the evening that the sound quality leaves something to be desired.

Charlie Boyer and the Voyeurs

First up tonight is highly enjoyable Birmingham band, The Bombergs, playing fast and chaotic punky rock, with chunky basslines and fractured, buzzing guitar. Then we have Charlie Boyer and the Voyeurs fresh from a BBC Radio 6 Marc Riley session this week. They perform half a dozen songs, finishing with their new single, ‘I Watch You’, a fast, driving song, with a frantic vocal and an underlying Velvet Underground-type riff on guitar and organ (sounding a bit like ‘White Light, White Heat’ at times). It is impossible not to sit-up and take notice of this. I must say that I was impressed with their radio session. They definitely have a sound of their own and are a band to look out for. However, although they do a storming performance, the sound system tonight really does not do them justice, as it is too loud and distorted, with vocals lost in the mix.

Toy, Birmingham 20-10-12

Toy have only been around since 2010 and drew real praise from the Horrors, when they supported the latter band’s 2011 tour. While Toy are probably in the same style camp as The Horrors, their sound is their own and they remind me of the extended psych-riffing of American band Wooden Shjips (yes this is how they spell their name). They are also reminiscent of the under-appreciated 1980s / 90s ‘shoegazing’ band Ride. There are also major krautrock influences.


The 5-piece band are a hairy bunch, clearly influenced by late 1960’s fashion. Lead singer Tom Dougall appears to be wearing mascara which makes him look a little like the legendary founder of Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett. They kick off with the impressive B-side to their debut single, ‘Clock Chime’, which begins with a chiming guitar jangle, but develops with a heavy guitar riff and symphonic, floating, keyboard sounds. The A-side, ‘Left Myself Behind’, follows later, but the rest of the gig comes from their acclaimed 2012 debut album.

Toy, Birmingham 20-10-12

Second number up, ‘Colours Running Out’, really demonstrates the band’s appealing effect-laden twisted, psychedelic guitar style. Perhaps their best song, tonight and always, is the lengthy ‘Dead and Gone’, which has a real groove to it and has received extensive radio play. However, they are not just about riffs and guitar effects. They also have some gorgeous and infectious melodies, such as ‘Lose My Way’.

Toy, Birmingham 20-10-12

Unfortunately, again, the sound system does not do justice to the subtleties of Toy’s music. However, the band really put on a show and there are some serious head-down guitar work-outs. They could clearly use a larger stage for their guitar mangling, but miraculously no one on the small platform gets poked in the eye with an instrument or sustains an injury. However, keyboard player Alejandra Diez, provides a counterpoint and stands impassive at her instrument throughout. The evening ends appropriately with the lengthy finale track, ‘Kopter’, from the album, which becomes more and more fast and frantic as it draws towards its conclusion.

Toy, Birmingham 20-10-12

All in all, a great evening’s music, but a shame that it was not in a better venue, with better sound quality.

Toy setlist: Clock Chime; Colours Running Out; Left Myself Behind; Lose My Way; Dead and Gone; Drifting Deeper; Motoring; Heart Skips a Beat; Kopter.

Photographs and Review by John Bentley

3 Responses to “Toy + Charlie Boyer and the Voyeurs + The Bombergs @ The HMV Institute, Birmingham, UK – 20th October 2012”

  1. Dayne Says:

    Although Toy’s album contains a fair amount of sutblties their live show does not. Before claiming that the sound system is not capable of doing the bands live show ‘justice’ please educate yourself of the battles against stage volume, poor equipment and poor musicianship that sound engineers fight against at the majority of todays gig. Your write up on this gig suggests that you were not even present for The Bombergs set, and if you were, you would have experienced a well drilled band capable of mixing their own sound on stage being reinforced fantastically by the same PA used by Toy.

  2. john bentley Says:

    Well, Dayne, we try to be fair and objective in our reviews, but I do appreciate your comments. I know that live sound is not an easy business. However, the review was written from the point of view of what the punter hears at the gig. Whether it is the room, the equipment or what, I am not qualified to say. I go to many concerts and can compare what I hear at different gigs. In the other rooms at the HMV I have usually experienced good sound quality, so maybe it is the room. Maybe anyone else who was at the gig can offer an opinion on the sound?
    Overall I thought my review was very positive about the quality of all the bands playing and it was a great evening. I was certainly there for the Bombergs and I have commented positively about them and not questioned their sound mix. I would also add that Toy’s album is probably one of the best of the year and it’s a permanent feature of my CD player at the moment.

  3. Gig Reviews | Gig Photography | Interviews | Competitions from Gig Junkies » Blog Archive » Tame Impala + Young Dreams @ The Leadmill, Sheffield, UK – 2nd November 2012 Says:

    […] from simply revisiting and rehashing the past, they, like a lot of other new bands this year (eg. Toy, Django Django), really seem to be creating something new and […]

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