Toy Love

The new wave sequel to the seminal kiwi punk band the Enemy, Toy Love expanded the Enemy’s brutally primal sound to include organ, angular guitar, and even more literate vocals. By this stage of his musical development (1979 through 1980), lead-singer and song-writer Chris Knox was at his most populist peak, writing songs like ‘Pull Down The Shades’ and ‘Squeeze’, which became New Zealand pop classics. Toy Love was more than just Knox’s band though, they welded his charismatic and warped vocals to Alec Bathgates eclectic guitar playing, a young Paul Kean’s explosive bass playing, the poppy hooks of Jane Walker on keys, along with Mike Dooley holding up the fort on drums.

Toy Love were a band highly in demand, creating a stir on both sides of the ditch the band played continiously, holding up residencies were-ever they would land, but (due to the economics of the time) barely scraping by financially.

Everything would eventually came to a screaming halt when the band launched into recording their debut album. The sessions were a farce, with the band clashing with their engineer who just didn’t know how to handle such an eclectic and wild bunch of misfits. They were tired. The resulting album, though still containing quality material, wasn’t a patch on their earlier singles, each song sounded flat and warn-out and compounded the collapse of the group as a working unit. Knox and Bathgate would soon split to form the legendary Tall Dwarfs, whilst Paul Kean would become a part of the Bats.

The group made a triumphant return to the New Zealand album charts on Record Store Day, April 22nd 2012 with the release of the Double LP Live at the Gluepot, an extremely limited (400 copies worldwide!) live album sold exclusively at Real Groovy in Auckland.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • ‘Rebel’/’Squeeze’ 7″ Single [1979 Elektra Z10015]
  • ‘Don’T Ask Me’/’Sheep’ 7″ Single [1980 Deluxe Z10022]
  • Toy Love 7″ Ep [1980 Deluxe 20630]
  • ‘Bride Of Frankenstein’ / ‘Good Old Joe’ / ‘Amputee Song’ 7″ Single [1980 Deluxe Z10029]
  • Toy Love Lp/Cassette [1980 Deluxe Z20008]
  • Cuts Double Cd Anthology/Reissue [2005 Flying Nun Fncd473]
  • Live at the Gluepot Double LP [April 22nd 2012 Real Groovy]

See-Also

Tall Dwarfs

After Toy Love (the bastard son of The Enemy) disintegrated in 1980, Chris Knox and Alec Bathgate were so fed up with the ‘band’ approach to making music, that they formed The Tall Dwarfs as a performing collective absolutely opposed to the way they created music in the past.

Not that i’ve ever desperately wanted to have sex with Alec, ’cause he’s not really my type y’know, ’cause he doesn’t have breasts and a vagina. Apart from that, if i was to have sex with a fellow male musician it would probably be Alec
Chris Knox: Taken From Popwatch #10

Bringing in any number of contributors, the Tall Dwarfs forged a whole industry from home-recording. Knox had recently purchased a simple 4-track recorder, and it become the bases for the Tall Dwarfs recording regime (as well as the initial lo-fi steps of the just-formed Flying Nun label). Because of this freedom to recorded whatever and whenever they could, the Tall Dwarfs grew incredibly eclectic and bizarre, collecting fragments of found sounds, unusual toys, and whatever other ‘beautiful accidents’ they could muster, turning it into a beatles-influenced stew of pop (and not so pop) moments.

Over time, in the united states the Tall Dwarfs and knox’s solo material would become synonymous with the new zealand scene – as knox had become something of an iconoclastic figure with then-trendy lo-fi movement. Although Knox’s solo material started to take precedence over the Tall Dwarfs in the mid-90s (bathgate now lives in christchurch, knox in auckland), they continued to release album after album almost annually.

Discography (picks in bold)

See-Also

Tall Dwarfs – The Sky Above, The Mud Below

Flying Nun [2001]

After 20 years of continually releasing dynamic, independent and thoroughly inventive music – the Tall Dwarfs have released perhaps their most laid-back and restrained full length with The Sky Above, The Mud Below, their 13th album. Wearing their influences on their sleeve, the album varies between shades of the Beatles and Beach Boys brands of pop, and the Tall Dwarfs trademark lo-fi inventiveness. For the first time, the group incorporates digital techniques (which might send some shivers down the spine of the purest of listeners – don’t worry it’s only for editing purposes!) to modify their endless collection of loops, sample snippets, tape-effects and found sounds.

The warmth of their previous recordings is still very evident, this time being far more reflective than their previous albums. Both Bathgate and Chris Knox (who has now reached the ripe old age of 50) seem at peace with themselves, and how they make music – no longer concerned with the “lost opportunities” that their other recent albums such as 50 Flavors Of Glue and Knox’s solo release Beat portrayed.

The album starts with the chirpy, upbeat tribute to the late great George Harrison “Meet The Beatle” inspired by Chris’ accidental run-in with Harrison a couple of years ago. “I know that guys like me are a drag, you must have had it up to here with fans” – a lyric typical of Knox’s content throughout the album. He’s playing for himself now, and songs like “Meet The Beatle” and the follow-up “Beached Boy” demonstrates he knows his place in the (music) world. Knox absolutely dominates the vocals on the first half of the disc, creating an introspective flow based around timid, tentative instrumentation – it’s hard to believe this is the same duo that raised so much hell as The Enemy back in the late 70s.

“Room To Breathe” again recalls long lost beatles numbers, with Bathgate’s first vocal outing sharing a great deal of character with long lost Lennon classics. As the understated (and undervalued) member of the duo – Bathgate has a great deal of talent for playful melodies that goes unrecognized. “Melancholy” sees Knox bring out the oven trays (for percussive effect) along with some gentle wilting Mellotron from Bathgate – a sickly sweet ditty that’s already burnt its impression on my brain – imminently hummable.

Bathgate’s given the job of pulling off the album’s one true radio hit, though, with the self-effacing sing-a-long “Baby, It’s Over”, featuring some of the best organ and synth the Tall Dwarfs have ever committed to tape. Similar to the catchy (and somewhat revolting) singles from last album 50 Flavors Of Glue, it’d be a surefire hit if only pop songs were judged on merit rather than marketing ability!

“You Want Me Shimmy” is the prime moment of humor on the album, Knox trying his hardest to pull off an allman brothers impression, but comes off somewhere between captain Beefheart and Tom Waits! Definitely the result of many whiskey soaked nights behind the mixing board, it serves as a great foil to the more serious songs on the album.

The album concludes with an additional 8 tracks (described on the cd as a free EP) under the ‘International Tall Dwarfs’ moniker to coincide with material collected from international fans, called The Weidenhausen Impediment. The EP features Graeme Downes guitar work, a loop from Jad Fair (of Yo La Tengo), vocals, clarinet and guitar from Jeff Magnum and Laura Carter Of Neutral Milk Hotel (and Elf Power) and instrumentation from the entire Clean crew, along with a loop from unknown Dutch band ‘Mongrell’. Following on from the International Tall Dwarfs stunning debut Stumpy — considered by many as the Dwarfs best album.

It’s quite evident that digital recording hasn’t made too much of a difference to the way the boys make music, the album still showcases the Dwarf’s disdain for flashy production – and it takes until the trailing EP before their trademark tape manipulation comes into play. all in all though, the many guest stars (and occasional stolen sample byte) blend perfectly into the dwarfs lo-fi madness – with even the guests from neutral milk hotel being relegated to merely impersonating possums on ‘possum born’. one of the best albums of the year so far, filled to the brim with catchy sing-a-long choruses, strange lyrical bents and references.

The Clean – Compilation

Flying Nun [1986 Compilation]

In 1978 the New Zealand underground scene was on the verge of explosion. The Enemy, Bored Games, and The Spelling Mistakes were showing that New Zealand could produce great punk music, and all with a great ‘do-it-yourself’ gusto. The Enemy later developed into seminal early 80s punk outfit Toy Love, and with their eventual collapse, guitarist/vocalist Chris Knox formed the infamous lo-fi pioneer duo the Tall Dwarfs with fellow Toy Love member Alec Bathgate. David Kilgour was a great fan of the Enemy, and had developed a relationship with the musicians that made up the Dunedin scene at the time. In 1978 he set about learning guitar, then forming a band that would eventually capture the essence of the 2nd wave of New Zealand underground music, the so called ‘Dunedin Sound’.

After a period of almost 2 years and a plethora of line-up changes, Kilgour settled on his brother Hamish on drums and original bass-player Peter Gutteridge (who after leaving the band before the majority of their output was an original member of the Chills, The Puddle, and then eventually his own band Snapper). This formation would go onto write a handful of The Clean‘s early songs, and eventually resurface in 1983 as The Great Unwashed (for a short tour and subsequent album), but it was robert scott (also of the bats) who secured The Clean’s line-up in late 1979.

After touring haphazardly for there first three years of existence (often supporting The Enemy), Kilgour was propositioned by young upstart Roger Shephard, who had come up with the idea of forming a record label to release The Clean’s noticeably inspirational music to the masses. Shephard put together Flying Nun records in 1981, and The Clean’s breakthrough single Tally Ho! Was the label’s 2nd release (following The Pin Group’s ‘Columbia’). Featuring a young Martin Phillips on organ accompaniment and recorded for no budget whatsoever, the single rocketed into the New Zealand charts – which was considered impossible for a self-distributed minor label recording at the time. Phillips’ catchy, driving organ and the gentle sing-song nature of Kilgour’s vocals had immediately struck a chord with the New Zealand public, but the band failed to fully capitalize on this early success.

Over the course of the next two years, the clean only put out two EPs, Boodle Boodle Boodle was recorded by Doug Hood and features a stunning array of pop-classics (“aNything Could Happen”, “At The Bottom” and the Gutteridge penned classic “Point That Thing Somewhere Else”) and the equally superb ‘Great Sounds Great, Good Sounds Good, So-So Sounds So-So, Bad Sounds Bad, Rotten Sounds Rotten’ EP (track highlights included the instrumental “Fish” and jangly masterpiece “Beatnik”).

This complacency with relative seclusion eventually led to a number of self-imposed band break-ups, and delayed their eventual debut album release till 1990, which brought Vehicle – by which time the Clean had become a part time band for all three members, due to the demands of their various other musical exploits.

Compilation documents the high-times of the early Clean. Released by Flying Nun as an LP (then re-released during the 90s cd reissuing phase), the album gathers together Tally Ho! And the original 2 EPs, several tracks from the ‘Oddities’ self-recorded album, as well as live material recorded crudely on a fan’s cassette recorder.

The quality of the recording is of no concern though, as it becomes immediately apparent on listening to these lo-fi masterpieces that the clean were on to something special. From the twin-guitar and bass onslaught of pounding pop opener “Billy Two”, the chugga chugga bass and steaming lead-guitar of “At The Bottom”, through to the quirky pop highlights of “Beatnik”, “Oddity” and “Hold On To The Rail” – there isn’t a single dud in this wonderful archive of one of pop-rock’s truly great bands.

Ear-marked by a stunning live rendition of signature tune “Point That Thing Somewhere Else”, the live tracks are murky, but show the band in full flight. Waves upon waves of guitar distortion, pounding bass and drums and kilgour’s enigmatic, hushed vocals characterize a band that did more for the New Zealand live scene than any other band has done before or since.

Rough and ready, this is a compilation of the most well-honed, dynamic guitar music your ever likely to hear. Simmering solo’s, bass that gets your foot tapping, and primal, aggressive drumming lead to a winning combination. Though the Clean may have since failed to live up to the expectations that this album documents, they have become a crowning monument for New Zealand in the history of pop-rock, and i’d recommend anyone with more than a passing interest in music to give this classic a try.

Bored Games

Biography

Before Dimmer, before Straitjacket Fits, before even the Doublehappys, Shayne Carter was in a Flying Nun-type punk band called Bored Games, who opened for the likes of the Clean and Toy Love before the lads had even left high school.

The conduit was the Pistols doing ‘Pretty Vacant’ on TV some time in 1978. A blast of white light – so exotic, primitive and powerful – it blew me away. Lesley Paris (later to become a member of Look Blue Go Purple, and at one time even head up Flying Nun) informed me that her neighbor, Robin Siatanga, had a tape of the entire ‘Nevermind The Bollock’ album and we’d pass it among ourselves like this chalice of purse gold. I can still remember the cassette – White with thin gold stripes. At home i’d listen to it on headphones, cranked up beyond distortion, the music like an avalanche in my ears. That’s when I began writing songs. – Shayne Carter

At the age of 15, Carter (the ever-vocal front-man) formed Bored Games with Kaikorai High School buddies Wayne Elsey (bass) and Jeff Harford (drums) drafted in Logan Park High Schoolers Fraser Batts (guitar – brother of Jeff, making his name in The Same) and Jonathan Moore (guitar).

That was the beginning really. Two tribes from opposite sides of the city interlocked, bringing together the 20 or so kids who made up the town’s original young punk scene. By this point The Enemy had left for Auckland – along with the original Clean – and assumed a shape of mythic proportions. – Shayne Carter

Bored Games started forming songs and ideas, Lesley helping out as their primary supporter, and the band indulging in such influences as “The Buzzcocks, The Saints, The Stooges, The Ramones, The Damned and The Pistols. AK79 came out and we loved The Scavengers tracks and would later cover Proud Scum’s ‘I Am A Rabbit’…”, and listened intently to bootleg’s of The Enemy, provided by (‘Records Records’ owner) Roi Colbert.

Going from making their debut at Kaikorai High School talent quest to supporting heroes Toy Love (and even upstaging them by playing ‘Pull Down The Shades’ in the more primal, slow 10 version The Enemy used to play), things quickly fell into place – the band playing community halls to armies of Dunedin youngsters, though violence somewhat curtailed this option and being too young for pubs the started to run out of options. A possible support slot with Lip Service fell through:

…Mr. Batts said no. We didn’t bother telling Lip Service we weren’t turning up because they were from Auckland and besides they looked old. We thought they were probably fakes. The Knobz came and played a lunchtime concert at school. The covered The Members’ ‘Solidarity Confinement’ and dedicated it to Bored Games but we were unmoved. We thought The Knobz were fakes as well. Afterwards my next door neighbor would plaster “Knobz wank dogz” posters all over the city. -Shayne Carter

By 1980 the band had started thinking about recording, with a back catalog of some 20 originals to work with. Mike Chunn overlooked the group, taking on the young Dance Exponents instead. Wayne Elsey grew tired, leaving to form The Stones and was replaced by Terry Moore, and the band won the 1980 KVHS talent quest on second attempt. In 1981 the band slid away, half the members resurfacing in Martin Phillips re-christened sequel to The Same – The Chills.

The group would (with the birth of Flying Nun, later in 1981) record the ‘Who Killed Colonel Mustard’ EP (which included the brilliant ‘Joe 90’ – unmistakably the bands signature song) posthumously a year after their break-up, and Carter would go on to re-unite with his school chums in The Doublehappys. The EP is now tragically hard to find, but the boys material is easily obtained on the ‘..But I Can Write Songs OK’ compilation on Yellow-Eye records.

[Quotes from Shayne Carter taken with permission from ‘Mysterex: Kiwi Punk And Beyond #3”]

Members

  • Shayne Carter (vocals, 1978 – 1981)
  • Wayne Elsey (bass, 1978 – 1980)
  • Jeff Harford (drums, 1978 – 1981)
  • Fraser Batts (guitar, 1978 – 1981)
  • Jonathan Moore (guitar, 1978 – 1981)
  • Terry Moore (bass, 1980 – 1981)

Discography

  • Who Killed Colonel Mustard EP [1982 Flying Nun LUDO001]

Links

Places of Interest

Christchurch in the 80s [By David Swift]

The Christchurch scene of 1980-82 is pretty legendary, and rightly so. This was most fertile period of rock’n’roll in the city since the beat-boom days of Chants RnB circa 1966.

There were some very good Christchurch punk bands (notably the Vauxhalls) in 1978/79 and a picky audience of 200 or so original-school three-chords hipsters, but it was only as the punk phenomenon flowered into postpunk that the number and quality of bands blossomed.

Think of it as the difference between The Enemy and Toy Love. It was cooler to say you had seen The Enemy in a small crowd, but Toy Love were a better band packing out 800-capacity bars.

Christchurch was second to Auckland in 1980 for the passion of its punk/new wave crowds. Toy Love, the Swingers, the Features would travel down and regularly pull 500-800 people at the DB Gladstone or the Hillsborough Tavern. Occasionally the Aranui Tavern on Brighton road [edit: Pages Road, on the way to Brighton] would also host these kind of bands.

The primo local groups in 1980-1982 were the Pin Group (because leader Roy Montgomery – now a lo-fi legend in the USA – was an essential cog in the city’s cool – he was manager of the EMI shop on Colombo St that was totally given over to NME-approved sounds….the company wasn’t that keen, but it was just about the most profitable EMI shop in NZ as a result), The Gordons, The Newtones, The Androidss, Scorched Earth Policy, Victor Dimisich Band, The Playthings, Kaza Portico / The Builders (Bill Direen’s bands), The Volkswagens, 25c, Yeah, Mainly Spaniards were a bit popular too. I may have missed a few out….(at the same time there were kids in punk covers bands, pub rock bands, etc). But the above names were the central musical identities in a community fired by the Velvets/Stooges/Jonathan Richman/1960s USA Garage Punk/Pere Ubu/Wire – yet compelled to make their own music.

Roger began Flying Nun in early 1981 (i was the first journalist to write about the label, in the Press) because it seemed to him that if no one recorded these groups they would be lost to history.

At the same time, bands from Dunedin began forays to Christchurch where they knew that their original music would go down well with a knowing crowd that held no truck with punk covers bands. The Clean’s first big gigs were at the Gladstone and their reputation sprang from there by word of mouth. Roger was so blown away by them he instantly marked them down for a 45 – Tally Ho.
The Verlaines, The Stones, The Chills and Sneaky Feelings also ploughed that furrow. At the time no one in Christchurch was in thrall to any ‘Dunedin scene’; in fact there wasn’t one as such. As far as we knew, there was just a few really good bands down there who had been blown away by The Enemy /Toy Love and wanted to make their own contribution. And to have it recognised in Christchurch as there wasn’t enough support for their originality down there.

Some ChCh bands quickly carved out a reputation in Auckland too. The Gordons are probably the best example. I saw their first ever gig at the Hillsborough Tavern in early 1980 (supporting Toy Love, or was it the Swingers, can’t recall exactly) and they had only been together a week and only had five songs but played them twice to rapturous acclaim from 600 people.

The Gordons did it different – offering a discordant wall-of-noise with some melodies years before Sonic Youth. Years later, in fact, SY professed huge admiration for the three, two of whom i went to school with at Ashburton College. I remember the Gordons doing three sell-out nights at the Gladstone in 1983 and just being excited at the sheer size of the Marshall stacks they had shoehorned onto and around the stage in that tiny pub. It was incredible the passions that a local band playing original music inspired – one of the great legacies of punk.

At the other end of the scale, Bill Direen was a huge talent, playing the rawest nuggets flavours in his bands The Vacuum / Kaza Portico / The Bilders yet he never made any commercial headway. The Bilders’ Schwimmin In Der See EP (Flying Nun 1982) remains one of the label’s very best discs and the retrospective ‘Max Quitz Vol 1’ (1994 Flying Nun CD) is pretty essential to understand all that was good about garden city garage rock in the early 1980s.

In january 1986 i made my first trip back home after 18 months in the UK and was delighted to see that Sneaky Feelings were to play the Gladstone on a saturday night while i was home. But unlike four years earlier, the pub wasn’t full and i only knew three people in there. Sneakies were still great, but that was the end of the era for me.

Martin Phillips

Although Martin Phillips can essentially be regarded as the heart and soul of his two-decade old troop the Chills (and the only surviving member of some 20+ line-up changes), Phillips has released material in a solo capacity which he clarified as being a seperate entity from his long-standing band.

2000’s ‘Sketchbook Vol. 1’ was a finely compiled and represented anthology of some of Phillips lost material – as over the years he has taken it upon himself to record several hundred hours of song-fragments that failed to make it to release.

Phillips originally debuted back in the late 70s with the unrecorded The Same – a punky troup who shared the same characteristics of the early Clean, though a little greener-still behind the ears. The Same were born into the same scene that spawned Shayne Carters’ high school gang Bored Games, and were inspired to action by witnessing small-town heros the Clean and (primarily) the Enemy in their formulative stages.
Discography (picks in bold)

  • Sunburnt [1996 As Martin Phillips And The Chills Flying Nun Fn303]

  • ‘Come Home’/’How Much This Place Has Changed’/’Lies, Lies, Lies’/’The Streets Of Forgotten Cool’ Cd Single [1996 As Martin Phillips And The Chills Flying Nun Fn340]

  • ‘Come Home’/’The Streets Of Forgotten Cool’ 7″ Single [1996 As Martin Phillips And The Chills Flying Nun Fn340]

  • ‘Surrounded’/’Friends Again’/’Stupid Way To Go’/’Yabba Dabba Doo’ Cd Single [1996 As Martin Phillips And The Chills Flying Nun Fn365]

  • ‘Surrounded’/’Yabba Dabba Doo’ 7″ Single [1996 As Martin Phillips And The Chills Flying Nun Fn365]

  • Sketch Book Vol. 1 [2000 Flying Nun Fn415]

See-Also