(Vertical Species - released 6/5/03) 

Fans of Toyah's will already know three of the six songs presented on this mini-album from Toyah's 2002 limited-edition 'Little Tears Of Love' ep, but it's good to see them finally get a more public airing alongside some long awaited new material. 

Accompanied by a press release that promises the influences of artists as diverse as Marilyn Manson, Elbow, Mogwai and Nick Cave it is with some trepidation that I first listen to 'Velvet Lined Shell' and fortunately fears are unfounded - those artists may have been influences on Toyah, but the sound sidesteps them and is very much a continuation of Toyah's past rock style. 

Opening track 'Every Scar Has A Silver Lining' is a bombastic rock track based around a simple guitar riff, and overlaid by Toyah's distinctive vocal although her voice has deepened since her heady days of pop stardom, is less aerobic in range and has just an edge of the awkwardness of someone trying a little bit too hard to please. No such criticism for 'Velvet Lined Shell' however; the title track fares much better with a slow and dignified vocal that make the atmosphere far more dangerous and prickly than all the rock energy and attitude of the opener. 'Little Tears Of Love' continues in this vein, vocals breathy and slightly distorted over a staccato guitar backing. 'You're A Miracle' and 'Mother' are the closest tracks to the Toyah-sound of the eighties; 'You're A Miracle' finds Toyah upbeat and in fine voice whereas 'Mother' is a surprisingly fast song that manages to sound slow and passionate. 'Troublesome Thing' rounds off the set with some ponderous and slighly cliched nu-metal guitar riffs saved by a Kate Bush vocal and a strong Toyah chorus. 

An interesting addition to the Toyah catalogue, 'Velvet Lined Shell' nonetheless manages to sound like a work in progress - but given time to live and breathe, and with decent production rather than the heavy handed and muddied sound achieved here they could be the start of a very exciting new musical chapter for Toyah.
May 2003