New Gods Toys compilationReview
How on earth that dynamo of self produced solo albums on such an epic scale as Daffod'i'll can have found the time to return to the work of the band which first launched him to fame, Gods Toys (when he was known simply as Dill), goodness only knows. However it will I'm sure make a lot of people happy to learn that he's released (and on a "pay as you see fit" basis via https://iconoclastrecordsuk.bandcamp.com/album/gods-toys-2 too) a collection of remastered tracks by that iconic band (though it's ironic that it's therefore come out on his own Iconoclast Records label).
It's difficult from this distance to fully grasp just how big the band were in their day, let alone the heights which so many informed observers (such as Radio One's Annie Nightingale) predicted they'd reach. Touted as "the next big thing" to emerge from Coventry after 2 Tone (and supported by both Jerry Dammers & Horace Panter in various ways), perhaps one helpful clue is for those of you who visited the 2 Tone exhibition at the Herbert Art Gallery a few years ago: did you notice the huge picture which first greeted you? Not of The Specials or The Selecter, but Dill in full flow fronting Gods Toys live: and they weren't even on the label.
Dill was one of the most charismatic of front men, deploying his significant physical presence & unaffected enthusiasm with the support of a band whose own sense of the theatrical matched the quality & dynamism of their playing: Chris Dickie (bass), Nick Kavaz (keyboards), Larry "Lupin" Lloyd (guitar) & John Hobley on drums.
They put out two well received singles: 1980's "All The Born Losers"/"I Love The Sound Of My Own Voice and the following year's "Everybody's Got A Mother"/"Package Tours To Heaven", all of which except "Everybody's Got A Mother" appear here and which Radio One among others played.
But as fate so often has it, fortune was not to be. Support slots on tours by major artists can be a stepping stone upwards, but not if the headline band feel threatened by you & undermine your performances. So it with Gods Toys who lost heart when treated so badly by a group whom I shan't give undue publicity by mentioning. Dill went on to form "I" and eventually his current solo career as Daffod'i'll, Larry became a Giraffe, Chris a recording engineer & John joined up with Charley and Desmond from The Selecter to form The People.
So apart from the three tracks off singles, you get their anthem, the "God's Toys" track itself, their earliest song (the tongue in cheek reggae track poking fun at those playing with & adopting faux ethnic identities) "Arti Natty", one of Dill's onstage showcases "Gyroscope" plus "Battlescarred Faces", "Hate's In Love Again", "Horror Movie", "Human Farm" (often played as a medley with "Arti Natty"), "Mr Mimic", "Rose", "The All American Dream" (a lyrical theme Dill still returns to) and "The Young And Early Bright New Days"
So what were they like? Well despite the enthusiasm from Radio One for the singles, their reputation was based on a live show which even this collection cannot reproduce (though see below). The songs were very diverse and strong (which the album does evidence) showing a range of styles which accurately chronicles the beginnings of the "post punk" search for how the energy & integrity of punk could be channelled via more interesting routes than the later generations of punk bands seemed interested in. So you get the authentic dubwise sound, complex polyrhythms, bits of funk and a range of quirky guitar & keyboard sounds which exemplify an era when experimentation was rife in some quarters & valued by audiences & when narrowing your sound down to produce a "signature" one was not yet approved of (this would not last long: as most notably U2 openly appropriated some of the more original sounds circulating & exploited them with ruthless commercial intent). What is most striking thing about Gods Toys is the humour. That did get a bit of a rarity amongst the post punk scene when grim themes, morbidity & senses of intellectual purity frowned on fun). The songs often poke fun at people with the satirical thrust of punk, but there are tongues in cheeks to & jokes abound. If you don't know these songs, then many will bring a smile to your face.
Thankfully, one clip from their television appearances has survived to make it onto YouTube so you can get a sense of what all the fuss about their live act was about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4SLOk93xlk
This compilation is several decades overdue, but I'm delighted that Dill's finally put it together & hopefully will bring fresh fans to a great band who will badly & shabbily treated in their day & consigned to underserved neglect & obscurity in the subsequent years.