Toyah: Sheep Farming In Barnet – UK – 7″ EP – 
- Neon Womb
- Our Movie
- Last Goodbye
I was barely familiar with Toyah from seeing a review of “Anthem” in the pages of “Dogfood,” out local New Wave newspaper that was published by Record Mart chain in Orlando in the late 70s/early 80s. The positive review piqued by interest as it was written by Robin Shurtz; a guy I knew from teaching English at my junior high school. Robin had interesting music tastes.Then, in 1981, I bought an issue of Flexipop that had an ad for Toyah’s “Thunder In The Mountains” single. The extreme styling and pose of the photo was sort of like a femme take on “Aladdin Sane” but the eerie calmness of the singer’s pose looked interesting. The look fit right in with Visage and the New Romantics I liked. It made me wonder what music by someone who put that forth as their image might be like.
On a trip to the godlike Record City in Fern Park, I got my chance. There I saw the debut Toyah 7″, an EP [the label called it an “A.P. – alternative play”] featuring six tracks on a 7″ record, so yes, the results spun at 33 rpm and was pretty tinny. But this was the first Toyah music that I heard and I went on to buy a lot more. “Neon Womb” was a pretty vivid opening statement. It began with ragged sax and and an electric piano at a calm tempo before accelerating to full shrieking chaos by the song’s end. It was a unique blend of post-prog rock at frantic punk tempos with some free jazz sax added in there for discomfort. Toyah would not earn any gold stars for her singing. She sounded untrained and living in the moment. “Indecision” was based on a monumental bass riff with a tribal drum loop that never resolved. Very energetic and Toyah was bouncing off of the walls with her delivery. As an actress making inroads to music more than vice versa, she tended to have a very ornate and heavily theatrical delivery. “Waiting” was an insular, unresolved number. It actually sounded as if it had been recorded in a metal can and the unceasing rhythm could have been a loop. It sounded more like a fragment of a song.
“Our Movie” sported exceptionally fruity delivery, heavy on the trills and rolled “r”s from Toyah and the vibe was more solidly New Wave than the other, more frantic material thus far. The standout track here was “Danced” which managed to shine through as the one pop moment of this EP, but with great difficulty. The long, slow intro lasted for almost two minutes before the song found its center and took flight with a memorable guitar riff from co-writer Joel Bogen. But even then, as the song was ascendent, a “what-were-they-thiking” excursion into annoying varispeed technique [it worked for Bowie] scuttled the chorus at exactly the wrong point. Still, in a correct world, this song might have been edited down from 5:13 to a killer succinct 3:00 hit. Finally, the dour “Last Goodbye” ended the EP on a sour note. All military tempos and vocoders for maximum alienation with Toyah herself having the last, strident word as the song ended as cold as stone on her vocal.
If I had to compare this to anything, Siouxsie + the Banshees were an obvious jumping off point, but if you cut Toyah and Siouxsie together, they would both bleed Bowie. He’s the elephant in the room. I detect a lot of “The Man Who Sold the World” in these songs. She and Siouxsie were both proto-Goth but Toyah had too much Prog in her system to rank as an influencer in that genre, even though her second album, “The Blue Meaning,” is a as Goth as it gets. Meanwhile, Siouxsie and the Banshees, went on to become prime architects of Goth.
Toyah would move from her dark roots all over the map, even flirting with dance pop and getting some hits in the process. I like her later, post popstar art rock material quite a bit. The incredible “Prostitute” album sounded every inch like the woman who matured from the girl on evidence here making music that was tempered by her circumstances and fueled by her intellect and passions. But this EP certainly gave indication that here was someone to keep an eye on. Even if she was one member of the UK New Wave movement who almost never ever crossed the Atlantic to plant her flag in America. I think the only Toyah ever released in America was on “Urgh! A Music War.”
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