Oakland alt-rockers The Angry Toons delve into the creative abyss, with their intense and stylistically limitless new album Toonomicon.
Fusing playful theatrics with outright ferocity across 11 original tracks, Toonomicon showcases a partly retro approach to alternative rock, and a notably original, fairly incomparable one.
Consider the upfront bass and distortion of Endless Scream, vocally characterful and building up towards a rightful outcry that is the repeating hook.
The pace rises, enveloping the listener in this growing field of energy and musical unity, and the drummer really takes a moment to shine amidst this. It’s an explosive introduction, but merely scratches the surface of what Toonomicon offers in full.
As we move into Still Alive, hints of Incubus become dashes of System of a Down – that gritty bass-line still at the forefront, now with a sort of shoe-gaze indie vocal drone relaying a new story and sentiment. Once more the hook intensifies, a chorus of voices presenting an anthemic moment that would no doubt cause a stir (or a mosh pit) at live shows.
Unexpected aspects continue to emerge, the atmospheric saxophone in Renegade Retribution – a precursor to a dark and defiant alt-metal track; with a twist of colourful or cartoon-like personality. These are qualities The Angry Toons encapsulate – this free-form and playful jamming, centered around an idea or feeling and gifted structure and musicianship that’s recognizable and distinct.
Big Bad Wolf maintains that identity, but softens the weight with a spacious and again theatrical performance – later with some simple yet striking and fast-paced guitar and bass-work. Always these stories paint pictures – something the album artwork reinforces. It would definitely be interesting to check out the visuals and indeed the live side of The Angry Toons.
Not the classic you’d expect but a strangely sultry, later immense and memorable mid-section track comes in the form of Bat Out Of Hell. Then there’s the broadly relatable, full-throttle head-banger that is I Don’t Mean To Be a D!ck, But F*ck You.
From one moment to the next, The Angry Toons toy with the creative space – sometimes presenting levels of provocative reference and scene, impressive musicianship and moods, at other times suggesting that this is all just a fun hit of escapism for the band; something which, in turn, gifts the audience the same degree of distraction from the world.
Frankenstein darkens the vibe further still, before Toon Raider adopts something of a progressive rock aura; with a haunting take on the character implications of its title. Then that early Incubus bass-play and chorus of voices returns for Farrier Of the Swamp.
At the penultimate moment, the full force of Toonomicon strikes for the relentless tempo and passion of Sh!it Show, after which the cinematic tones of Godzilla make for a vintage hip hop-infused alternative metal closer that’s bizarrely catchy. Short lines and swagger meet with that experimental guitar and the ever-present bass, for an unforgiving downpour that wraps up the project on a defiant high.
Nothing like most of what you’ll have heard lately. Original and authentic to the creative preferences of a band united in their love for the process, Toonomicon is very much a celebration of darker entertainment and the freedom to play; as well as a reminder that the bass is far more versatile an instrument than most bands tend to suggest.