From the ashes of Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong comes a wonderful take on krautrock
What does one do when one stops jangling? It’s a question Toy personnel Tom Dougall, Dominic O’Dair and Maxim Barron must have asked themselves in 2008, when they found themselves as the Lehman Brothers of a rapidly crashing indie market. They were members of Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong, a band so jovial even their name sounds like the peal of bells. But despite critical acclaim and goodwill from indie-loving teens nationwide, the musical landscape changed around them, their album was pulled before release and the band split soon after.
There is, tellingly, no jangling to be heard on the debut album by Toy, the band comprising the trio of JL&TJJJ exiles plus Charlie Salvidge and Alejandra Diez. Instead, this band surf the cosmic channels of krautrock, cruising along on motorik beats, waving at pals The Horrors and tipping their hats to Syd Barrett as they chug through hypnotic, psychedelic pop songs. If music fandom were a video game, krautrock would be one of the later levels, unlocked only after you’ve defeated the boss of Jazz World (a pixellated Miles Davis blowing angry crotchet bombs from his trumpet). It’s music for people with beards. And Germans, of course.
Yet Toy make it totally accessible. There are cheeky nods to the genre’s rules – a song named ‘Motoring’; a closing track that spells ‘Kopter’ with a ‘k’. The latter stretches its arpeggios and synth waves for almost 10 minutes, and could happily rumble on forever. Droning, repetitive, psychedelic music isn’t usually so fun or affecting. The opening two tracks, ‘Colour’s Running Out’ and ‘The Reasons Why’, each have a flurry of strings – just enough to give that swooning feeling. Later, ‘Drifting Deeper’ is like navigating a labyrinth, its warring guitars and roaring phasers evoking the title perfectly. They’re songs that make you feel like you’re constantly moving. It makes you want to hop on board a hoverbike and zoom off to see Hawkwind play on Mars. It’s weird and wonderful and you’ll want to listen again as soon as it’s over.
Not to labour the link between the Jing Jang Jong and Toy (it is just three members out of five, after all) but the heartening thing about this reinvention is that lessons were clearly learned. JL&TJJJ felt like a band who’d turned up late to the mid-noughties indie party with pointy shoes and nowhere to go. Toy, by contrast, are chasing no scene. There is no wave of bands channelling early Pink Floyd, The Moody Blues and sundry German bands of the late ’60s. Except The Horrors, who have championed Toy from the start. They’re kindred spirits, sure, but think of it this way: it took The Horrors two albums to get this good.