[sic] Magazine

Shark Toys – Labyrinths

Here’s a collector’s item on the venerable In The Red label in so much as it’s a rare offering from them that’s not absolutely essential. You could, of course, say the same for much of garage-punk in general depending on your point of view, but indispensability has never been the genre’s strongest suit. Bands come and go of course, newer ones picking up the mantle from those sadly departed. Long-time LA, Smell-scene punks Shark Toys got started way back in 2009 and, to their credit, their third LP, Labyrinths, is as consistent, engaging and surprising as they’ve ever sounded, but all the same their formula feels a little tired.

Gone over the natural passage of time are most of Danny Clodfelter’s founding and former band members, in their place now drummer Emanuel Farias and bassist Bill Gray (of The Mae Shi) and there’s no shortage of ideas between them. Gray’s wandering, low-slung bass-work is distinctive, Clodfelter’s trembling sneer and tumble of angular shred as violent as ever, Farias duly banging away like a migraine, but this is all only half the story. For, from out of Labyrinths’ shadows, wobble sci-fi synth effects and ripples of battered bar-room piano that weird out its fringes, braying sax adding a warm buzz that partially unifies the two worlds afresh. Plenty of sheet-metal left in the rickety mix, pogoing mid-fi rippers thus coil into springs of feedback and raw yelping, unspooling occasionally in giddy bursts into something like that recent Flat Worms album, only as played at double-speed.

Sharing DNA with a number of greats, Shark Toys are capable of cleaning up their act too, a track like “Walking Song” quite presentable for it as well. There’s talk nonetheless of Labyrinths being a flashback album to the days of No Age’s period of dominance and there is a lot in that comparison, but there’s also a conscious lack of buried melody and, frankly, fuzzed-out nuance that tends more often to lead Shark Toys off these days in the direction of the minimal, clattering end of DIY post-punk, sax and guitar squaring off and crashing together like rutting deer. Accordingly dazed, it’s just a pity it doesn’t all linger longer in the memory.

~Labyrinths is released April 6th 2018 via In The Red.~