The Toy Dolls | Treasured Tracks (SOS)

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cd_toydolls.jpgFront man Michael Algar (stage name Olga) has been the only constant in the abundance of incarnations the band has endured since 1979, and he's everyone's friend. Really.






When I heard the initial cheering in the opening track, the first two words that came to my mind were "Damn it." I hadn't realized Treasured Tracks is a live album. As a general rule, I really don't like live albums. A lot of avid music lovers (which I do consider myself to be) submit that live recordings are more important than studio albums insofar as they strip away the studio itself and leave the band naked with only their real talents to support them in lieu of recording tricks and engineering. I think they usually obscure the music under bad sound quality due to poor soundboard operations and less-than-desirable recording equipment. There is also the tainted taste one often has for a band after realizing they aren't as great without all the studio affects. Then the Toy Dolls started playing and proved themselves the exception to my arguably unfair rule.

Front man Michael Algar (stage name Olga) has been the only constant in the abundance of incarnations the band has endured since 1979, and he's everyone's friend. Really. Go to their website and view the "Ask Olga" forum and you'll see for yourself. He's been a powerful force in the U.K. scene for nearly 30 years yet still hasn't shown signs of aging and replies personally to hundreds of fan messages each month. Algar's virtuosity with the guitar which presents itself in Steve Vai-esque glissandos is complimented by Tommy Goober's inhuman skill on bass and Kevin Scott with exacting and incredibly clean percussion.

Most of the tracks on the album serve as a sort of live greatest hits compilation and exemplify the Toy Dolls' trademark approach to their songs as poking fun at those things which receive outright disdain by other groups with social agendas. There are of course those tracks which, rather than serving as satire, are merely amusements about spiders in dressing rooms, addiction to television, and an inamorata with bad housekeeping habits.

The ingenuous seriousness of their sound is brought out with selections such as "Rita's Innocent," a lament detailing the injustice of placing false blame, and "Sod the Neighbors," which I would have bet my next month's pay was the Subhumans (UK), both based upon the music and the vocals, had I not known it to be in fact the Toy Dolls. Fan favorites "Dig That Groove Baby" and "Idle Gossip," with a chorus comprised of the word "idle" repeated rapidly over 30 times (it's much cooler and more enjoyable to listen to than it sounds), finish the album.

To be perfectly frank, a release that Algar describes as "Not a bad album this, though not fantastic" has me tempted to rethink my live album prejudice. It didn't leave my player until I'd come full circle back to the beginning three or four times, and most of the tracks are catchy and engrossing enough to make it onto a mix tape. B+ | Jason Neubauer

RIYL: The Subhumans (UK), The Smugglers

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