Sunday, December 8, 2013

Phantom Tollbooth - Power Toy (1988)

I understand December is typically for yearly lists but you won't catch one on this site from me. Possibly a few albums that have had staying power but nope sorry take your pitchfork elsewhere for a list. So I'll do you one better and reflect back  into the early years. Truly not enough people these days want to speak about formative bands in math rock these days. One of many such groups is the interestingly named Phantom Tollbooth (after a famous childrens book...if your not familiar its a good read for anyone). Extremely active and prolific in their relatively short life span (1984-1988)  these guys threw down some fairly left field music for the time. A generous mix of post-punk, noise, art rock and the ever important jazz element made Tollbooth a crazy fast ever shifting group to nail down. If that description sounds a bit like your used to thats because at times it certainly smacks of math rock.

Take a listen to the song "Crash Mode" and you'll begin to see what I mean. They were contemporaries of all the hallowed groups from the 80's (Sonic Youth, Mission of Burma, Minutemen ect) and were on the excellent Homestead label (Big Black, Bastro, Seam, Dinosaur Jr. among many other wonderful groups) "Power Toy" was their last album in 1988 and is arguably their best which would be a great starting point if your just coming into them. Robert Pollard (of Guided by Voices) famously commissioned the nixing of all vocals from Power Toy and recorded his own with new lyrics with it being called "Beard of Lightning" in 2003...strange.

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