Album – Out of the Blue
Time for another (admittedly slightly late) requested grassroots review! Suburban Toys are an old school punk/ska band from Lincoln, UK. Their debut album, Out of the Blue, was released back in 2019 and I was asked very kindly to review it. Being a huge fan of both ska and punk, especially together, I have been excited to finally get around to this one for a while. Join me in checking them out!
Opening track, Sunshine Girl, bursts straight in with a great, simple punk rock riff. It is also made even more awesome by what I think is a keyboard/synth adding a great melodic riff over the top of the rest of the instruments, adding a lot of depth. I have to admit I was a little thrown off when the vocals came in, it being over halfway into the pretty short song already so I had just assumed it was going to be an instrumental track. The vocals are great, though, low and perfectly in keeping with the punk-style of the song. The lyrics are also very fitting, talking of an outcast girl, something very relatable in the genre’s scene. It’s actually giving me a lot of Kim Wilde vibes between the low vocals and the keys. A simple, short, but very, very good song brimming with attitude.
Cry Wolf opens on another awesome punky guitar riff. However, by the time it reaches the verse it drops down into all out ska, the guitar playing on the back-beat while the drums stay light and simple and the typical ska bassline goes nuts below it all. The chorus goes a little punky again; solid, distorted guitar riffs backing the catchy vocal line, before dropping back down into the awesome ska stuff for the other verses. This song was great, arguably more enjoyable than the first I’d say and it made my playlist. However, it did just go from verse to chorus and back again until the end; it would have been nice to get a bridge or something in the middle!
Time to Die opens pretty similarly to the previous song but keeps the punk-feeling going throughout this time. The verse is great, with some good lyrics spread between each of them, but the real highlight of this song is the chorus. Adding in the backing vocals added so much to the song in terms of catchiness and depth, making it an easy one to sing along to live and one I personally would love to go and see. The song drops down to just drums and bass coming out of the second chorus before perfectly building the guitar in and then building through the pre-chorus and exploding into the final double-chorus. This was another awesome song from start to finish, and another that ended up on my playlist.
The album’s title track is a nice contrast; ska through and through. The ska guitar and simple drumbeat continue throughout but the real highlight of this is the incredible vocals, keeping the same energy, attitude and power while also hitting some damn impressive higher notes, bouncing all over the scale gracefully. There was a nice little simple guitar solo in the middle here that sounded awesome and fit well with the songs energy and feel, too. Another great song, if not quite as catchy as the one previous.
Don’t Want You opens on maybe the best guitar riff on the album, simple yet oh so effective and catchy. It descends into some great power chords during the verses and choruses again, again giving me some heavy Kim Wilde vibes. The chorus is again catchy and fun to sing along to due to its great, relatable lyrics. The song drops down to just bass and vocals after the second chorus, adding some nice variety to the album as a whole actually, and was a nice touch in this song. It of course builds the guitars back in and heads into another couple of choruses and a verse. I do feel like this song went a little long, though. The final verse and chorus felt a little unneeded given that they had already dropped down and built back up earlier on around the middle of the song, but it is a minor gripe in an otherwise good track!
Me & You opens on an early Green Day-esque bass riff. The guitars and drums soon come in with some heavy ska stuff over the top and the vocals compliment it all perfectly. Again, the guitars and drums end up getting heavier and more punk-leaning during the chorus, a great choice as it adds more attitude and weight to the angry lyrics. There’s an awesome guitar solo here after the second chorus but it unfortunately gets lost in the mix, the rhythm guitar being much louder and drowning it out, which was a shame. The rest of the song goes along as a pretty standard affair, keeping the same high quality.
Just Go With The Flow’s riff reminds me a lot of Iggy Pop’s The Passenger, a seminal early punk song and artist if there ever was one. This song follows the same sort of pattern and feel to that song, too, staying simple and stripped back, keeping the same awesome, clean guitar riff throughout and building the vocals around it. A winning formula that worked well here, keeping the song simple and enjoyable.
The last few songs on the album following this are all good, but I am honestly running out of things to say about them without repeating myself too much. 3 Little Words is straight punk through and through while the following three are a lot more ska leaning. As I said, all are good songs in their own right, but follow a similar sort of formula to a lot of the rest of the album, and none really stood out to me more than Cry Wolf or Time to Die. That may just be me, though, and the fact that I was listening to it all one after another. They are most likely even better when hear in isolation and nod studied quite so hard!
Overall: I really enjoyed this. I loved the whole gritty feel to it, the production value actually adding a lot to the experience instead of hindering it. The blend of old school punk and ska music all worked very well, especially when they combined both together in the same song. There are also a good few songs on here that I have listened to multiple times now, a true testament to the quality. I’m excited to see where these guys end up in the future, as they have a pretty high ceiling!
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The review by musician, blogger & author – Joe Griffiths