Album Review: toyGuitar – “In This Mess” (Rock)

ToyGuitarReview By Dustin Griffin
4/5 Dragons
Review from Vandala Magazine; February 2015 Edition – Read Interviews, Reviews and more in Februarys’ issue FREE HERE

Jack Dalrymple has been a fixture in the punk rock scene since way back in 1995 when he formed One Man Army. Throughout the years he’s piled up an impressive discography with some of the scene’s best bands, including the original incarnation of Dead To Me, San Francisco/Santa Cruz legends Swingin’ Utters and short lived (unless they come back) pop punk Spike Slawson led band Re-Volts. He’s also toured with U.S. Bombs and filled in here and there with a variety of bands on different instruments. In short, he’s a true presence in the SoCal punk scene and a legend in his own right.

And now he has flexed a new musical muscle with toyGuitar. toyGuitar, which includes members of One Man Army and Swingin’ Utters, is a band which is probably the closest sounding thing to One Man Army Dalrymple’s been involved with the band itself. In fact, on the band’s first release on Adeline Records, there is a song called ‘She’s An Alarm.’ Which is also the name of the EP the newly reunited One Man Army released a couple years ago. Their first release in almost ten years.

That being said, while the similarities are apparent, that isn’t to say toyGuitar doesn’t have its own vibe. The guitar-centric songs on In This Mess are actually unlike anything else you’re likely to find at your local vinyl slinger. There is a fresh invention to these cuts that is exciting and unique. But there’s also a classic quality to them. Ramones powered songs trade off with Beach Boys melodies and are given a proto-punk overhaul of distorted fuzzbox proportions that sounds simultaneously gritty and sweet. It’s quite the modern/vintage mix and it practically begs to be experienced on wax. And all of it without any two songs on the album sounding the same.

If you listen closely, you can hear hints of In This Mess in the last couple Swingin’ Utters releases, particularly Poorly Formed. You can also hear it in past One Man Army releases and the first couple Dead To Me records. You can even hear some of it in bassist Miles Peck’s previous bay area band The Sore Thumbs. Which is a compliment. The fact that the band members are able to comb their respective back catalogues and take cues from the past, their past and punk’s past and infuse them with a modern approach is what makes In This Mess such a fun release and great way for label Fat Wreck Chords to kick off their 2015 release season.

The only complaint I have with the record is in its brevity. With nearly every song sliding in at around the two minute mark, the record flies by in just under half an hour. But what are you going to do? Punk rock isn’t known for its indulgence.

In This Mess feels very much like the soundtrack of the summer and it’s almost impossible to listen to this album without imagining yourself jetting down the highway with your foot mashing the gas pedal and windows wide open. Which is something we could all use in the middle of January, no matter where you live. 

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