By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa
Rock At Night receives dozens of emails daily from aspiring bands and new labels. Managing Editor Andrea Ramirez-Maciolek and I sift through the emails and give the tunes a whirl. A video or tune needs to grab us within the first 30-60 seconds for consideration. I felt like we hit the jackpot when I came across the label Freshly Squeezed Music, located in Brighton, UK, that features vintage or retro-sounding music. I’m sure you will be reading about some of their electro-swing bands like Swingrowers and Atom Smith in the near future. The album that truly caught my interest is from a Brighton band called 12 Stone Toddler. When I first listened to the song “My Machine”, I had a wonderful flashback to the 80s, when I had the pleasure of seeing Oingo Boingo. The song gave my delicious goosebumps and thrilled me with its quirkiness and creepiness—so I knew I had to investigate this band.
12 Stone Toddler is comprised of founding members Ben Jones (keys) and Chris Otero (bass/vocals), as well as new members Robin O’Keeffe (drums) and Helen Durden (guitar). Actually, the band has been recording for over a decade. Their 13-song, third album Idiolalia was released on October 5, 2018 through the Freshly Squeezed Music label. There is 52 minutes of not only quirky, creepy, fun–but really is a tribute to fine songwriting and musicianship–creating a very full, and fleshed out sound for a four-piece band.
It is really difficult to pinpoint the genre of the music—there are theatrics, swing, rockabilly, carnival music, ska, reggae, all rolled up into an eclectic bowl of ear-loving fun. Songs like “My Machine” and “Give Me the Creeps” not only capture a carnival sound with organ riffs, but have the darkness of Oingo Boingo/Danny Elfman (“This is Halloween”), Nick Cave (“The Carny”), and The Kinks (“Wonderboy”).
“Piranha” is a song in a similar vein, but is more upbeat, like Oingo Boingo meets Squeeze. Some of the songs on the album have a reggae or ska vibe (think ska minus the horns). Songs like “Mirror Ball”, “Heavy Sleeper”, “Dig A Hole”, and “Heaven Was Closed” sound like Motown combined with Madness, with their infectious singalong melodies and reggae organ and bass riffs.
But wait! There’s more! Just as soon as I was figuring out the genre, 12 Stone Toddler threw me for a loop with a swingin’, rockabilly or crooning tune like “Just Enough Rope”. “Nice Surprise”, a slow crooning, jazzy tune, changes tempo like a roller coaster ride, and develops into a harder prog rock sound groove as the song progresses. “Runaway Train” would feel quite at home if played in a punk rock club, with its edge and hard-driving beat.
Another stand-out song on the album is “The Borrowing Song” which features, again, the cool and creepy organ and reverb guitar strums. I closed my eyes and imagined this as a theme song in a Spaghetti Western film. Then, the song meandered into a whole different direction, by speeding up with a ska beat, and cooling down again.
Idiolalia is truly a musical journey that keeps you on your toes, with its variety of sounds—some are beautifully dissonant and even creepy—but always interesting and fresh. The songs are really unique , well-crafted and deliciously quirky, as Idiolalia is a really a gem of a find!
My Machine, Give Me the Creeps, Piranha, Mirror Ball, Just Enough Rope, Carried Away, Heavy Sleeper, Ride A Donkey, Runaway Train, Nice Surprise, Dig a Hole, The Borrowing Song, Heaven Was Closed,