Anthems, hope and escapism – it’s all there on the first Toyah album for 13 years!
Release Date: 27th August 2021
Label: Demon Music Group
Formats: CD / CD+DVD / Vinyl / Digital
The last time Toyah graced these pages was back in May, when we reviewed the reissue of her 1980 album The Blue Meaning. In that review, we gave a brief a resumé of what Toyah has been up to in recent years, including a mention of the hilarious You Tube postings, Toyah and Robert’s Sunday Lunch (and if you haven’t seen this yet, check it out – it’s unmissable!) and releasing her (until now) most recent album, 2008’s In The Court of the Crimson Queen.
Well… She’s back, and how!! Posh Pop is Toyah’s first album of new material for 13 years, and it’s a blast. Toyah herself is very proud of Posh Pop, considering the album “A career best,” and she could very well be right. It’s a joyful album that draws copiously on Toyah’s glam and punk roots and builds upwards from there; the 80’s synth sound is still around, tempered and enhanced by lots of stunning rock guitar from Toyah’s husband, “Bobby Wilcox” and the lyrics are clear and excellent, covering topics as diverse as the lockdown “Zoom Boom,” space exploration, ageing, bereavement, the devastation of war, the fate of humanity and the Beirut explosion. And it all comes enclosed in a wrapper of addictive, anthemic rock and pop.
And overall, and despite the apparent heaviness of some of the subject matter, the theme of the album is optimistic. We’re coming out of lockdown (we fervently hope…) and Toyah wants everyone to celebrate that. As she says: “The album was written for people trying to escape within their home. I wanted to help people go beyond the feeling of imprisonment. Posh Pop can still do that once we’re out of lockdown, because music is about escapism and memories. It was important to make music to energise people and give people optimism. And so say all of us!
I’m sure that many of you will be asking – “But how does Toyah sound, nowadays?” Well – there’s excellent news on that front, I’m pleased to say. There are still plenty of glimpses of vintage Toyah on Posh Pop, but it’s a new Toyah that really calls the shots. There’s no shrieking nowadays, her voice is mellow and melodic whilst retaining her trademark authority and determination and the tunes are an interesting mix of guitar and synth, packed with catchy choruses and irresistible hooks. And “Bobby’s” guitar contributions are fantastic. I’ve spent a lot of lockdown listening to the King Crimson back catalogue and the solos and riffs that he adds to Posh Pop are, for me, the icing AND the cherry on the cake!
The synths and drumbeats on opening track, Levitate, offer more than a hint of the old Toyah, before we step back towards a more 70s sound with the excellent glam/metal Zoom Zoom, a reference to the uptake of the video communication App that took place during lockdown, that observes that anyone wishing to start a revolution can now do just that, without leaving the comfort of his/her bedroom.
Things take a decidedly serious turn with The Bride Will Return. The song tells the story of Dr Israa Seblani, the Lebanese/American bride who, famously, was having her wedding photographs taken when the August 2020 Beirut explosion occurred. Over a persistent guitar/synth theme, the song considers how, despite the mayhem, the world’s lasting impression of that catastrophe is of the bride’s beauty and her determination to complete her wedding. The tune builds ominously to reflect the events of the day and the song ends with the optimistic refrain: “No matter what they say, it’s your day – can’t take it away. No matter what they do, you are you. Beautiful you.” We’re left in no doubt that the bride will, indeed, return.
In contrast, Space Dance, a song that deals with humanity’s “burgeoning efforts to colonise new worlds” is a thumping, bouncy, eighties dance tune – another slice of classic Toyah, and Barefoot on Mars, a tender remembrance of a departed loved one, is a big, synth-driven anthem that wouldn’t have been out of place on a 1984 edition of Top of the Pops.
The refrain, “You’re never too old to shine,” is the central feature of Rhythm In My House, and it’s a personal reflection of Toyah’s life and career. Viewers of …Sunday Lunch will already realise that rhythm is, indeed a staple of life chez Toyah/Fripp, despite (what might be perceived as) advancing years. As Toyah is keen to point out: “[You’re never too old to shine]… is absolutely the message of this album. It’s never too late. Life is about the journey, from birth to your last day. It’s not about doors closing.” And that’s a message that Toyah lives and breathes; it won’t do anyone any harm to do likewise.
“Bobby” excels on the ironic anti-war song, Summer of Love. His strummed acoustic guitar introduction blossoms into some of the best electric soloing that you’ll hear this side of Christmas. Toyah plays a strong part too with a vocal that alternates between quiet and soft in the verse to strong and frantic in a chorus that yearns for the peace ethic of days gone by. As the refrain says: “All we need is a Summer of Love, bring it back, we’d only just begun. All we need is a Summer of Love, Let’s get it on. Ban the Bomb.” – And it’s an ex-punk that’s singing those words!
Monkeys offers an observation on the fate of humanity, as taken from a simian viewpoint, to the backing of a persistent guitar line and an anthemic chorus, in what is probably the most straightforward rock song on the album, and Kill the Rage is a song of stark contrasts with a laid back, rational verse and a furious, frantic chorus. Things are brought to a breathless close with take Me Home, a happy, loud, riffy rock song that celebrates the unity of mankind, as perceived from another world. The chorus, “Take me home to our rock amongst the stars, we’re not alone on our rock amongst the stars” is idealistic and, once again, anthemic, and hints, perhaps, at a unity that we haven’t yet been able to achieve. But such is the optimism in the words that you can’t help wondering whether, one day, that unity will, indeed be waiting for us.
Thank you, Toyah, for a great album. And welcome back – we’ve missed you!
Videos have made for each of the tracks on Posh Pop. By way of a taster, watch the video for Zoom Zoom – the album’s second track – here: