Listening to Rise And Shine the debut album from UK popsters The Toniks you cannot help at times thinking this is a band which has the misfortune to have missed their time slot in music history. Certainly they have a potent place in the now as their album shows but with songs ripe with sixties melodic and pop sensibility which sits easily within the pop mischief of Herman’s Hermits and the Englishness of The Kinks, and a new wave soaked infectiousness which is a close cousin to bands such as The Farmers Boys and Jim Jiminee, you can only imagine the Guildford quintet would have found a potent place those eras. In a never ending torrent of new and existing bands all fighting for attention, real and online, any band is in for a greater struggle than ever to just cross the gaze of fans though with Rise And Shine, The Toniks have given themselves a definite fighting chance.
The brainchild of vocalist/bassist Mark Taylor and guitarist Jez Parish, The Toniks has been making a solid ascent for quite a while now; their infection loaded pop songs gripping ears and emotions. With the current line-up of guitarist Tom Yates, drummer Colin Marshall, and Jessica English on keys alongside Taylor and Parish in place since last year, the band has continued to draw acclaim for their strong live performances, which recently has seen the band playing across Europe and in Canada. Since forming they have also gained support from the likes of Graham Dominy (Eurythmics, Razorlight, Imelda May) who provided them with free studio time after hearing their music. It has all added to a slow but potent rise which the album can only increase as it sweeps across greater numbers.
The band is no stranger to this site, The Toniks a constant on the playlist of shows from our associates Audioburger.com for the past few years. This meant that the album faced expectations but it is fair to say it pushed them aside to emerge an even more vibrant and irrepressible encounter than imagined. Produced by Dominy alongside Taylor and Parish and released on Smile Records, Rise And Shine goes straight for the feet and passions with its title track. The song is total contagion, from the moment the opening soar of harmonies and keys behind the mellow tones of Taylor stroke the ear it teases with a seducing wantonness which explodes into one of the catchiest tunes heard this year. Bred from the seeds of sixties pop, the song romps and strolls with a massive smile in its melodies kissed by brass spawned sunspots. The eighties reference is most apt and virulent right away as the starter has voice in league with its stomp and like the best pop songs, becomes an old friend within moments.
The following Won’t Let You Down is much the same in its individual character, guitars and keys coaxing the imagination as they craft hooks and melodies which sparkle as they tempt. The backing vocals of English along with Parish make a great compliment to the delivery of Taylor, her voices especially soothing and one hopefully the band employ more ahead. More restrained than its predecessor but still a catchy saunter to capture the imagination it easily continues the pleasing start as does next up You and I and Simple Things. Like the first pair they are songs very familiar to us but each finding a new freshness and energy to their suasion and presence through the new recordings and re-workings brought by the band for the album. You and I is a bouncy incitement of respectfully jabbing beats and cheery guitar swipes tempered by darker bass tones. It has a harder rock core to its bewitchment but one which submits to the inventive and sultry flumes of brass as well as the continually persuasive melodic weaves which lie around the addiction causing hooks. Its successor comes with a slower croon to its presence as well as a gentle caress vocally and musically. The bass stands potently to the fore of the song, its steady heavy presence seemingly given preference upon the song and actually works well adding variety to the simple but wholly effective melodic colour which engages the imagination and lures another belt of hard to resist involvement from the body.
After passing the charms of Weather quickly the album settles into a steady enticing with Figure It Out and Never Real, both songs a spark to fill the appetite further though a shade below the standards set. Going back to the first of these three, Weather is another ridiculously ear catching invitation to participate with and enjoy slice of pop which most will drool over but it has never found a place here, it one of those irritants which niggles though it is simply down to personal taste alone. Of the other two, the first builds from emotive keys and expressive vocals into a more than decent ballad which grows and expands as it plays out its narrative and the second a satisfying rock pop breeze, both providing healthy appetising treats to mull over and return to before making way for another highlight.
Secret’s Safe also hits the rockier depths of the band, a blues whisper to the guitars equally egging on the thumping rhythms and hard hitting vocals, though Taylor has a voice where snarls never rear their head to be honest. There is an essence of The Jam and The Motors to the energetic and rampant charge of the song, a pop punk quality which sets it to the top of the release, well until, after the thoroughly enjoyable and infectious There You Go, the outstanding Scapegoat steps forward. The scuzziest track on the album with a punk breeding to its creativity, the track is a riveting blaze of rock ‘n’ roll with all the contagiousness the band can conjure reaping the heat of the blues kissed guitar flames on top of barbed melodic hooks. It is a magnificent track, The Tonik’s finest moment yet.
The closing Wonderful Then concludes the album with a classic pop song graced by mesmeric strings, the cello caresses especially delicious, and resourceful evocative keys behind stirring harmonies. It is a final reminder of the depths of the songwriting of Taylor and Parish and though you cannot talk of them in the same breath yet as Difford and Tilbrook there are some familiarities at times to the construct and melodic structures of songs.
Rise And Shine exceeded expectations to stand as one of the better real pop albums out this year. If The Toniks have yet to touch your ears their debut album is the perfect way to put that right.
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