Whilst it is hard to believe wishes generally do come true we have to question that when a long time hope has just been realised with the release of a new album from one of the UK’s most unique and irresistible bands, 12 Stone Toddler.
The band created two of the last decade’s most essential albums for us in the 2007 released Does It Scare You? and its successor two years later, Scheming. They also uncaged a host of tracks which defined the inherent brilliance and unpredictability of their songwriting and sound including The Rabbit, a song which first had us deviously hooked on the band and has never escaped our personal playlist ever since. Though thickly wrapped in acclaim, the band never quite had the rich attention and recognition they deserved outside of their more local surroundings and subsequently seemed to step back into the shadows as its members explored other projects. It is a band though which we know has been the inspiration to a great many artists, all who will be rejoicing with us and fans at their return and a new album in Idiolalia which is 12 Stone Toddler craft and goodness at its most inimitable and mischievous.
With a new line-up seeing guitarist Helen Durden and drummer Robin O’Keefe alongside founder members and songwriters in keyboardist Ben Jones and bassist/vocalist Chris Otero, the Brighton hailing band has linked up with Freshly Squeezed Music for the release of Idiolalia. Immediately as its opener teases ears there is affirmation of what we already knew, the 12 Stone Toddler sound is impossible to pin down or make assumptions about. Musically the band embrace and indulge in strong flirtations with everything from and within rock, pop, and indie to swing, jazz, and more vaudevillian hued exploits; every emerging track individual in character and sound but united in the quartet’s one of a kind touch and imagination.
My Machine starts things up and once its mechanical workings are in order springs a swagger led stroll which needed mere seconds to get under the skin. With a steam punk like breath, the track continues to swing and sway on a manipulative rhythmic pulse, carnival-esque melodies escaping keys to spice guitar bred hooks as the familiar and potent tones of Otero provide a ringmaster like touch. It is an irresistible and irrepressible start to the album instantly setting down a rich marker in the second chapter of 12 Stone Toddler.
The following Give Me the Creeps is just as rousing and magnetic, building its own inescapable lure over a handful of seconds before casting an individual appraisal of life with melodic charm and fascination stirring enterprise. As with their music, the band has always conjured imagery and sparked the imagination with their lyrical prowess and as shown by the first two tracks alone they have lost none of that dexterity.
The animated surf swing of the outstanding Piranha just captivated and mastered inhibitions in hips and feet next while Mirrorball latches fifties seeded breeding to jazz nurtured devilment in its swingbeat flavoured gait for matching success. Add the insatiable rock ‘n’ roll of Just Enough Rope and the almost somnambulistic canter of Carried Away, a track which just blossoms by the listen with its melodic radiance creating something akin to Skylarking era XTC, and you have the kaleidoscopic nature and sound of 12 Stone Toddler in a beguiling nutshell and their ingenuity. The third of that foursome of treats is a wonderfully nagging proposal, its groove niggling away as keys squirt their melodic spicery across the fevered body infesting jive invading the passions.
Across the eager eventful waltz of Heavy Sleeper and the smouldering and increasingly heated melodic sunspot of Nice Surprise, ears are only pleasured by instinctive temptation. Both though still find themselves eclipsed by the following pair of Ride a Donkey and Runaway Train. Neither track was included in the promo sent our way but found to be joining the rest within the album and together providing another major highlight. The first teases with its air scything lures alongside Otero’s enticing vocals before the track’s swarthy landscape embroils country sighs with seaside town quaintness before its simply superb successor takes the listener on a journey of sound and voice escalating the intimation of its title note by syllable.
The final trio of tracks leave no second of sound or pleasure void of bold adventure and imagination, Dig a Hole kicking off the home straight with its virulent manner and step before the senses romancing saunter of The Borrowing Song serenades with the theatre and unpredictability you can actually expect from a 12 Stone Toddler offering. The album closes with one half of the band’s current double-A sided single, Heaven Was Closed, the other part of that teaser opening up Idiolalia. It is a warm and sultry piece of pop rock which simply seduced by the play.
It has been a long wait for 12 Stone Toddler to stir back into life but an intermission in their creativity well worth enduring as they are back as inventive, compelling, and intoxicating as ever.
Idiolalia is out now via Freshly Squeezed across most major stores.
Pete RingMaster 06/10/2018
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