Toys That Kill is an interesting band. Formed from the ashes of the influential West Coast Punk band F.Y.P. (whose last album was named Toys That Kill) and fronted by former F.Y.P. frontman/current head of Recess Records Todd Congelliere, Toys That Kill represented a desire to break away from F.Y.P., to create a new band with a new sound. On Shanked! they are proving that it was good choice. F.Y.P. was an amazing band, but Toys That Kill allows them to continue to explore fresh sounds.
Simply Stated, This Is Great Punk Rock
Taking its name from the way that Congelliere's cat Boris attacks without warning, Shanked! tears through punk tune after punk tune, each better than the last. From the moment the album opens with "Bomb Sniffin' Dogs" you're hit with pure three-chord joy, fast but not too aggressive, hooked but not too poppy, that doesn't let up until the end.
Lyrically, the songs stay fun, too, even when the songs are darker, which happens more than a few times. On "Run Away", Sean Cole sings "We're all rotting, clotting cysts, just sitting ducks, so much for the National Trust". Congelliere mentions passingly on "They Caught Us All" that "I sang my song but I still feel pain", and on "31 Year Old Daydream", seems to bemoan getting older as he sings "I'll forget the words I'm supposed to sing, Cos I'm a 31 year old daydream." Yet, these darker tracks on the album all have a great feel to them, like they mean what they say, but they don't really mean it.
The band seems most focused on making it fun. Perhaps best-defined on "Bill Buckner", Congelliere sings "I'm not sure why I'm here or where is here, but I'm loving every minute of it." This could easily be the band's mantra.
Even as Toys That Kill have continued to progress and mature musically on Shanked!, the album has a classic feel. It's hard to believe this is a new album, yet I can't put my finger on why. It's not stale at all, but it simply sounds like it should be about ten years older. Perhaps part of it is Congelliere's familiar voice reminding me of F.Y.P., but I think it also stems from a desire for this album to be older. Toys That Kill have a sound that will influence many punk bands to come, and I wish that they already had.