Fabulous, flawless, five-star pop from Toyah - Liam Rudden
It's a mystery how time has flown. I remember clearly the first time I heard the name Toyah Willcox.
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I was 15, hanging around the square behind the family home in Leith when a purple-mohicaned punk called Pete appeared. He was visiting pals in the scheme and we got talking about music. He was a fan of a singer who, he claimed, could unite mods, rockers and punks. Some feat in those days.
"Everyone charges to the front when she comes on," he said, adding, “They don't even fight when Toyah's singing."
The next day I headed to Ards Record Shop on Great Junction Street and found a copy of Sheep Farming In Barnet. One listen and I was hooked.
That was 42 years ago, it's still a brilliant album as is Toyah’s latest, Posh Pop, released last weekend.
Reunited with long term collaborator Simon Darlow and with husband Robert Fripp on guitar, Posh Pop is at once reflective and optimistically forward thinking.
So much so that, after listening to it twice, I tweeted: '#PoshPop, the new album from @toyahofficial is fabulous and flawless. There are tears, laughter and moments of beautiful contemplation in these 10 gloriously uplifting songs. That’s the topic for my next @edinburghpaper column sorted.'
So here goes…
Recorded during lock down and co-written by Willcox and Darlow, the songs evoke many of the thoughts we have all shared over the last 18 months and are accompanied by simple, effective ‘home-made’ videos, filmed on an iPhone.
With an hour to myself on Saturday morning, I settled down to see what Toyah and co had produced with little more than a picturesque garden, country kitchen, church and giant green screen; from spaceships to monkeys, it's a fun journey through the songs with the odd outrageous costume or two thrown in for good measure.
The opening number, Levitate, is insanely catchy and a bit of a banger. Its anthemic nature making it an obvious single choice.
Zoom Zoom, with its laid back hook, 'yeah, yeah, yeah,' follows and, though it first appears a bit too relaxed, it quickly becomes a grower. The first of my two highlights, The Bride Will Return, is beautifully haunting. Toyah's vocal proving quite hypnotic. It's a glorious listen as is Space Dance, albeit for very different reasons. A quirky celebration and playful slice of Eighties' sci-fi pop, it's imbued with an infectious sense of youthful wonderment and humour.
Barefoot On Mars, my highlight of the album, is an arrestingly emotional, uplifting and joyous tribute. A tear-inducing salute to Toyah's mother, it will touch the soul of anyone who has lost a truly loved one. A degree of lightness returns with Rhythm In My House, an easy listening number brought to life with unicorns and bubbles, which is followed by Summer Of Love and an unapologetic Sixties' 'love and peace' vibe.
Monkeys, perhaps more than any other track, boasts the exciting rawness of the Toyah songs I loved as a teenager. Again it's a grower, while Kill The Rage simmers with the anger at injustice that has frequently fuelled the singer's lyrics.
Finally, the ethereal Take Me Home brings Posh Pop to a close with an environmental message of love and a gentle wave goodbye.
Fabulous, flawless, five star pop.