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TOYAH ‘Velvet Lined Shell’ (Vertical Species Records) (2003)

Toyah's first album of the Millennium, in fact her first new music for nine years, and what a way to return. The music on this album is fresh, contemporary, exciting and vibrant. For a while it looked like Toyah's music career was obsolete but the long, and often frustrating, wait was worth this awesome collection.

The songs on here are like nothing Toyah has ever recorded before and each explore new directions. Album opener, "Every Scar Has A Silver Lining" sees Toyah the rock chick make a welcome return, she sounds exuberant, the vocals and positivity of the music and delivery disguising the darkness of the lyrics. Title track, "Velvet Lined Shell" is slow, dark, and atmospheric. A real grower. The eerie music and backing vocals add weight to Toyah's voice, making this the stand-out song, along with "Little Tears Of Love".

Speaking of which, last year's single "Little Tears Of Love" begins with distant, industrial type noise and Toyah's effect laden vocals begin: 'nothing pricks like a little death...', managing to somehow sound aggressive and sweet at the same time. This song is both commercial and experimental simultaneously, and builds to a huge and stunning chorus/hook built around one word - FLESH! Toyah's voice has never sounded better, and the production matches even that of the legendary Nick Tauber. "Little Tears Of Love" is without a doubt the best song Toyah has recorded for at least 14 years and already up there with her classics.

"Mother" isn't a song by Toyah about her mum, more a plea to an anonymous mother figure that Toyah has her sights set on her son, despite the fact he is "20 years too young" This is far mellower than "Little Tears" and includes the wonderful lyric 'I'm too qualified to give up, lie down, and die'. Near the end Toyah whispers the line 'Mother I want a lover' in a voice almost identical to the one she used on "Creepy Room" 20 years ago - spooky!

Every time I listen to "You're A Miracle" the intro reminds me of one of my favourite bands from the early 90's, Neds Atomic Dustbin. This is a real 'it's great to be alive' type pop song with Toyah in fine voice and includes some great lyrics. I dare you to listen and not feel the urge to simply SMILE!

Final song "Troublesome Thing" is an excellent way to round of this much anticpated, and long overdue, album. Yet again Toyah's voice sounds better than it ever has, very Kate Bush in parts here, and the chorus is fantastic.

Toyah's new songwriting partner, Tim Elsenburg, is surely a musical force to be reckoned with, they make a formidable team.

These songs make it blatantly obvious that Toyah is more musically gifted than ever before, and her voice and songwriting have matured in leaps and bounds. She appears to have found a new zest for music and whatever muse is inspiring this, long may it continue. I have said many times that Toyah should be held in the same esteem as Kate Bush, Tori Amos, PJ Harvey et al.

This album simply underlines the point.


Review by David Fleming

***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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