Ten years ago I was playing Tony Hawks Pro Skater 4 on Xbox when this completely barmy song came on. It was clearly an old punk tune, but it had the strangest vocal I’d ever heard and was different from the norm in that it was amusing rather than the usual angry punk fare. It went on to become one of my favourite songs from the game’s soundtrack. That song was “Dig That Groove Baby”. Jump to present day and I’m driving to work when it popped on the iPod’s shuffling selection. I chuckled away and immediately put the whole album on to listen to, and boy am I glad I did. I’d forgotten just how good it was.
It’s both conventional and unconventional punk rock. For the most part it’s sub three minute up tempo punchy three chord action, but what makes Toy Dolls so much different is the comic or even sometimes utterly banal nature of the lyrics delivered with the completely unique voice of guitarist, singer, song writer and only surviving member of the original band today, Michael “Olga” Algar. He’s high pitched, heavily accented, almost devoid of tune or any singing ability whatsoever, yet brilliant and fits the silliness of the music perfectly. You only have to listen to hear the song “Dig That Groove Baby” once and you’ll be hooked.
When I say some of the song subjects are utterly banal, I certainly mean no insult to the band. In fact, it’s a wonder that such great songs can come out of such a simple subject such as “Spiders In The Dressing Room”, a song that appears to have no other point to it than crapping themselves at a spider when getting dressed. It’s such a great little tune and is also a fine example of one of the common features of many songs, the group chorus.
No song does it better than the cover of children’s nursery rhyme “Nellie The Elephant”. It’s a very quirky little tune with some mock live cheering, a slow verse section then the rest of the band join in with a building “Ooooooooooooooh” before bursting into the chorus as a unit. I defy anyone to not join in during the build up section. If you’re anything like me though you’ll probably miss the chorus due to pishing yourself laughing. It’s truly a spot of brilliance and the personification of entertainment.
The rest of the album is just as great as the few tracks I’ve pointed out so far. One of my personal favourites is “Worse Things Happen At Sea” which sounds like a bit of a piss take of people worrying about things way too much. I love the way the worries it highlights are life changing devastators such as an ingrown toenail or having acne. It’s daft, but it does actually put things in perspective in such a simple way. Add to that list “Queen Alexandra Road Is Where She Said She’d Be, But Was She There to Meet Me… No Chance” and the utterly mental “Fiery Jack”.
Apparently each Toy Dolls album contains a cover, and this first album has a rendition of Elvis Presley’s “Blue Suede Shoes”. Or at least, it tries. Bear in mind the track length is 2:17, it contains two failed attempts to do an accurate version (which is boo’d off) before using the final 90 seconds to speed through it while amazingly retaining much of the original.
This album is like a curious mix of a sketch show, pantomime and a musical. It’s mental from start to finish, yet it’s accomplished and quite simply great to listen to. Although it’s wrapped in a little intro and outro, the iTunes version has 4 more tracks which are pretty damn good too. It’s well worth a gamble if you’ve never heard them before as I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. It’s just a shame that it’s not on Spotify or I’d embed the lot for you to listen to.
The sound quality of videos on YouTube is awful, so I’d suggest digging out your old Xbox and copy of THPS4 and giving it a whirl for yourself. You never know, you might discover some other hidden gems too while you’re there.