TOYAH
Minx
Review by Richard Evans

It's a strange thing to be a fan... once you've nailed your colours to a particular mast it's very difficult to be objective and back in 1985 when Toyah released 'Minx' I was perhaps at the height of my obsession with her and her music, but even then I knew that 'Minx' wasn't the album I wanted it to be and now, twenty years later it's an uneasy listening experience... 

The album kicks off postively enough, rattling through 'Soldier Of Fortune, Terrorist Of Love' which neatly bridges the gap bewteen 'Minx' and preceding album 'Love Is The Law', but the pace falters with 'Don't Fall In Love (I Said)' which to my ears is still a disappointment even now, all these years after the original release... it's a pleasant enough track but isn't 'pleasant' a bit of a dirty word? It's a track that sounds like all traces of personality, passion and excitement have been meticulously removed in order to leave a track that is likely to appeal to the widest possible audience. The result in fact is a track that is sadly bland, middle of the road and tame, but likely to be utterly inoffensive to the widest possible audience. Things don't improve markedly with the next track - and second single - 'Soul Passing through Soul', similarly polished to a high sheen of production this is a track with every production device known to man - saxophones, chimes, and liberal use of what sounds like those shakers and scrapers that used to be the staple instrument in junior school music lessons - set to maximum and any true soul or grit set to minimum. 

It's a relief therefore when things pick up massively with 'Sympathy', a slow, searing and impassioned song, dripping with strings which features perhaps Toyah's best vocal performance and which benefits from such shiny eighties production... one of Toyah's best torch-song moments for sure. 'I'll Serve You Well' sees Toyah on more familiar ground musically and lyrically (it's about S&M) and is probably my favourite Minx track - the production here is still polished but there is a starkness to it which gives the track depth and substance which makes Toyah's tense, clipped delivery shine. The next track 'Over Twenty-One' I'm going to skip... it's my second to least favourite Toyah track ever (pipped to the post only by 'Love's Unkind' on the next album, 'Desire', in case you were wondering) and given the strength of some of the project's b-sides (more of them later) I still can't believe that this track ever made it onto the album. Thank god then for 'All In A Rage' which is a fantastic upbeat track and a welcome moment where Toyah's middle-of-the-road mask slips and she gleefully careers through one of the albums true hightlights. 

'Space Between The Sounds', with it's faux-mystical pretentious lyrics, and darkly swirling atmospherics could be something from 'The Changeling'... in the (excellent) sleevenotes Toyah readily acknowledges the pretentions of the song, but I liked it then and I think it has stood the test time better than many of the other tracks here. Alice Cooper's 'School's Out' is next... not a terrible version but just a weird song to include - it sounds odd in the context of the album and unfortunately it's a bit of a karaoke version with Toyah seeming to give little of herself to the performance which makes the experience rather flat and uncomfortable. 

The third single to be taken from 'Minx' comes next. 'World In Action' is to my mind one of the strongest tracks here and would have made a great lead single... it's distictively Toyah with it's theme of alienation and futurism, but it's an updated version of the Toyah people would have expected at that time. The production is rockier and slightly grittier than much of the album and the pop-rock delivery would have certainly made it a more palatable single for Toyah's fanbase than 'Don't Fall In Love'. A version of Latin Quarter's 'America For Beginners' is next and it's great... precise, measured vocals and lush, minimal backing makes it a slightly unnerving, menacing and eerie listening experience. 'Vigilante' then relaxes the mood and is an enjoyable closer to the original album. 

That this release is an expanded version of 'Minx' allows Toyah to present some of the strongest b-sides and bonus tracks of her career - 'Snow Covers The Kiss' the b-side to 'Don't Fall In Love' could so easily have been the single that Toyah's fanbase wanted to hear, like 'World In Action' it's distictively Toyah, but an updated version, ditto really for 'Kiss The Devil' also a b-side to 'Don't Fall In Love', both these tracks owing more perhaps to the 'Love Is The Law' project than the more grown-up 'Minx' campaign which is perhaps why although they are without a doubt strong tracks in their own right they didn't make the final album tracklisting. Twelve-inch versions of the three singles make up the rest of the bonus material presented here - 'Don't Fall In Love' and 'Soul Passing Through Soul' both benefit from the extra room to breathe that the format allows, but it's 'World In Action' that pushes the 12" format the furthest, the two mixes presented here each taking the song to new heights and fuelling my opinion that this could have been a better first single choice. 

'Minx' is the sound of Toyah at a career crossroads - and you can almost hear the tension between the two directions crackle across the album; whether to deliver the fan-friendly album that would perhaps be the safer option, or to persue a wider audience that would take her to new career heights, albeit as a slightly different kind of artist. Ultimately though the album fails on both counts and is a compromise left uncomfortably struggling somewhere between the two. 

A worthwhile release for collectors, the packaging is excellent, the sleevenotes are interesting and entertaining and it does feature some great tracks, but this album made me uncomfortable for Toyah when it came out and I have to say it still makes me uncomfortable now...  
 

www.remembertheeighties.com
October 2005