Names Are For Toe Tags - Demo
Bill Cummings 20/06/2008
Apparently the Klaxons made the most 'forward thinking album' that the editor of the NME has heard in years. Well excuse me if I don't think bolting samples and synthesizers to what are essentially atypical indie pop tunes isn't exactly breaking the mould. They aren't the first act in recent memory to use electronics to augment their sound indeed since the early 80s work of Kraftwerk, Devo, New Order et al bands have sought to incorporate electronic elements of rhythm, keyboards and samples into their work, whether you daub it with a new label (new romantic, electro clash, new rave and on) or not, its not forward thinking its just a reflection of the influence of acts from the past, only the best acts can reassemble these influences twisting them into a really interesting, individual sound, a balance between melodies, guitars and processed electronic beats, the ability to infuse the harshness of mechanics with their human personalities.
On their myspace page, Cardiff three-piece Names Are For Toe Tags describe their sound as 'android pop' but this is more CP30 than T2000. This demo opens promisingly enough 'They can't hit you if you keep on moving' skanks from foot to foot in deserted dimly lit clubs with buzzing industrial beats, (the sound of sheet mettle being bashed into place) thudding baselines, vicious waspish guitars, plus a sleazy vocodered vocal wears a considerable groove in your head bringing to mind the early industrialist goth of Nine Inch Nails, only by minute two it does rather become a little repetitive. That's a thought that's echoed throughout most of the other tracks, menacing electro clash is a difficult sound to perfect, Names Are For Toe Tags have the ability locked inside, but too often these tracks lack the ability to take things up a notch, to shift their ideas and melodies: to be truly memorable.
On the twitching rhythms of 'Less Haste More Sleep' front man Matt Strangis sounds like a slightly flat mechanical Gary Numan clone wrapping his hands around your neck: the uptight refrain of 'show some restraint' feeling like a promise rather than a compulsion as this never really goes up to the next level. In the hands of a band like The Faint this effort would force its will upon your ears but here it feels strangely detached and isolated, maybe this is intentional but it adds to the feeling that right now Names For Toe Tags are still experimenting with their sonic palette rather than coming into their own. 'Who's in Charge?' has some satisfyingly crunchy dynamics building from winding acoustics to techno bombs but the main line 'you want repetition try my head for size' perhaps unintentionally sums up the feeling that the listener is being bludgeoned to death by a few ideas. Last effort 'Drag and Drop' is the other highlight, sounding rather like Berlin period Bowie, cut to pieces and sprung into place by the computer electro clash licks of Depeche Mode its the best thing on this demo, it has an appreciation of dynamics that is absent elsewhere, it points the way towards a more accomplished sound.
In some respects Names Are For Toe Tags are promising: the foundations are in place, the tight rhythms, sometimes this mixture of buzzing guitars, samples and mechanical beats are really enjoyably confrontational. But to really take things up a level or two they need to shift from the often (intentionally?) monotone melodic lines and infuse some variation in style and attitude into their sonic palette, learn to really let go, until then their vaguely menacing brand of Welsh electro will go unheard by many.