Order Of The Toad. Is there a band on the planet with a more intriguing name? The Glasgow trio featuring Gemma Freeman (the Wharves), retro pop genius Robert Sotelo and drummer Christopher Taylor returned in the second half of 2020. They followed their excellent self-titled debut with the delightfully titled ‘Re-order Of The Toad’.
The unexpected flamenco tinged, retro cowboy, paisley pop of Lady’s Mantle is a stunning blast from the past. You could absolutely imagine this soundtracking a Tarantino shoot-out. It’s a genius pop song, powerfully fronted by Freeman.
Just Because continues the slick retro feeling with the matching organ and guitar copy each other reinforcing the melody throughout. This could have been made any time in the last 60 years.
The yawning melody of the chorus offers the first hint of Sotelo’s influence.
Rabbets is a comical, stop-start turn with vocals (we assume by Taylor) akin to Magnetic Fields or Suburban Kids With Biblical Names, with the vibrancy of Of Montreal in their 60s phase. It’s choc full of great backing vocals and fun hooks.
I found it difficult to listen to the great muted swagger of Brintons Marrakech without envisaging Austin Powers, it’s extremely playful in an Os Mutantes kind of way.
The Sotelo led Fabulator is right up there with the best of his solo work. The stop-start rhythms emphasise the super catchy melodies as it pulls us in all directions like two children trying to get attention.
There is a beautiful sway to Slow Ballad 44, as Freeman again takes the lead. The Beatles-esque guitar line in the verses and push and pull of the lightly militaristic drums set the perfect platform for Freeman to let rip. There are some delightfully subtle warped pitch effects in the second half of the song. It’s gorgeous.
They kick things up a notch with the upbeat Do It With Feeling. It has one of those basslines you feel like you’ve heard a million times. It’s a great groove that carries the song towards the unexpectedly frantic chorus and bonkers instrumental bridge and outro.
This is incredibly creative retro pop and it’s fantastically produced.
Order Of The Toad have smartly arranged this album to retain interest throughout. Lindow Woman brings back the Of Montreal via Magnetic Fields approach to refreshing effect. The lyrics are brilliant. Toads Theme has another of those infectious grooves, Freeman almost recalling Kate Bush with her vocal performance, before it picks up pace and gets wonderfully weird.
Sotelo takes charge again on the initially lilting Mend It. The band are so dynamically aware, throwing in rhythmic and structural curve balls. This time by way of a chunky hook.
Just when you think you have them pegged, the punchy A Pittance slows right down and introduces some gloriously spacey sounds.
Cruise Control rounds off the album in party mood with it’s disco beat and bassline and simple doubled up guitar and keys.
Order Of The Toad are masters of melody and dynamically smart. For some reason it took a few listens to fully click but Re-order Of The Toad is a magical pop album.
You may enjoy this if you like: The Wave Pictures, The Wharves, Robert Sotelo, The Magnetic Fields, Of Montreal