Agitated Atmosphere: Toy Love - Live at the Gluepot

Agitated Atmosphere, Album Reviews
02/01/2013
Justin Spicer

As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as Toy Love .

2013 will be the year of Toy Love; odd considering the band's been a non-entity for more than 30 years and didn't survive to its second anniversary. Such was the volatile world of post-punk in New Zealand during the late 70s and early 80s.

So why will 2013 be a renaissance for a group whose claim to fame is spitting members Chris Knox and Alec Bathgate onto Tall Dwarfs? Because on top of the recently announced working relationship between New Zealand label Flying Nun and America's Captured Tracks to reissue the New Zealand label's past catalog greats including albums from Toy Love, Goner has snuck out this double live LP from the last gigs of Toy Love after the band announced their break-up.

As a live document, the album more than holds up three decades after being shut in the vault. It's crisp, punchy and energetic. The moment the needle hit the spinning wax on the turntable, the house exploded in youthful fists and wild manes. The neighbors weren't very appreciative but they have a yippy toy dog. I'm sure they get more frustrated when our baby wakes up at 4 A.M. looking for a bit of breast comfort.

So I figured repeated plays of Toy Love in the evening once baby has gone to bed would be a treatise. But the punk gnarl of Knox's vocals, the frantic jangle of Bathgate's guitar and the low end thump of Kean and Dooley are blistering. When it does let it, it's not for very long and it's not needed (though not unwelcome). Sometimes a fight needs no intermission. I can spit blood and saliva onto the floor and continue the grapple. I can mix it up. I can forget responsibility and neighborly manners for a moment. That is the gift of Toy Love in an all-too socio-political morass of ennui and immorality. When need a little bit of sanity, it just happens to come in left and rights courtesy of Toy Love's last live document. Pick it up and get swept up in the fever for a band and time you never knew you needed.

Justin Spicer is a freelance journalist whose work can be viewed at his website. You can also find him on Twitter.

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