True story: I saw the Butthole Surfers at Fenders in Long Beach back in the late ‘80s. Put simply, their set was pretty goddamned weird: two drummers; songs about “the fleshy thing that grew outta Johnny’s head” and proclamations that “the white man sold Quaaludes to the monkeys;” strobe lights flashing like mad; Gibby, in a green dress and hair covered in clothespins, pours green paint all over the audience and proceeds to flail his head about, sending clothespin projectiles flying in all directions. What, you ask, does this have to do with the Toy Dolls, you ask? Well, I’ll give you one guess who came on after them. That’s when the mindfuck really began. The set the Dolls put down that night was like regressing damn near back to the womb after the total acid meltdown I’d just witnessed prior, with songs about wayward intelligent elephants, combative spiders, test tube babies, and singer/guitarist Olga doing a striptease down to a pair of Bermuda shorts before tearing through a white-hot cover of the Surfaris “Wipe Out.” No two bands were more diametrically opposed, yet more perfect for sharing a bill, and it remains the single strangest band lineup I’ve seen to date (I think Final Conflict and a couple of Nardcore bands were on the bill, too, but it’s been too long ago to remember all the particulars and I digress anyway). By the time I saw them that night, the Toy Dolls (and the Surfers) were one of my favorite bands, an opinion formed over constant listens of the first two of the three albums under discussion here. Dig That Groove Baby, their first full-length, set the template—instrumental intro/outro, silly songs with alliterative titles delivered at lightning speed with lyrics culled from soap opera plots and/or what seemed like stuff Dr. Seuss hadn’t gotten around to writing about—for every subsequent release. It also set the bar rather high from the get-go, with its frantic tempos, Olga’s jaw-dropping fretwork and a rhythm section any band would kill for. Although they fell just shy of that bar with their second release, A Far Out Disc, it was still, compared to most others bands, a phenomenal release, with instant classics like “She Goes to Fino’s,” “You and a Box of Handkerchiefs,” and “Bless You My Son” (the tempo of which rivals the fastest Dead Kennedys jam, yet still manages to stay well within the realm of the Toy Dolls’ “punk pathetique” musical parameters), as well as a couple of disposable TV themes and a commercial break. Their third, Idle Gossip, features consistently superb songs (“Lambrusco Kid,” “Harry Cross,” and the title track, to name a few) slightly hampered by some patented 1980s “overproduction,” in this case enough reverb to make it sound like they’re playing in a cathedral. The quality of the songs still manages to shine through, making for a solid listen despite any sonic setbacks. For this round of reissues, Captain Oi has added to each CD tracks from every EP, single, and compilation the band graced during the period documented on each release, which means, in addition to the original album tracks, the listener will be treated to other hits like “I’ve Got Asthma,” “Tommy Kowey’s Car,” “Deirdre’s A Slag,” Cheerio & Toodle Pip,” “James Bond Lives Down Our Street,” at least three different versions of “She Goes to Finos,” and oodles of others. While I’m kinda put out that the album version of “Nellie the Elephant” has been inexplicably replaced with the single version, these three reissues remain mandatory for any punk collection.
–jimmy (Captain Oi)