Don’t know who the Toi are? Well, shame on you, sir (or madam). They’re a three-piece band from right here in Glasgow and fantastic into the bargain. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the guys a handful of times in the past and I can’t think of a time when they didn’t put on a great show. After a series of setbacks, their debut album Water into Wine is finally available to the masses.
Melodic and gritty in equal measures, it’s great to hear a band wear their influences on their sleeve whilst retaining their own identity. There are bits of Thin Lizzy, Queen, Journey and…erm, Bon Jovi. Despite the influence of the last one; there’s a tight, polished band playing some great rock tunes with a pop, radio-friendly gloss. It’s the sort of album when played start to finish is over and done with before you know it; always a good sign.
Full of big choruses, catchy hooks and great rhythms, it’s an album which sounds as good one the tenth listen as it does on the first. Guitars from Paul Healy screech and wail like an 80s hair metal act whilst they grind into hard rock territory, given the chance. Andy Carr (now also a member of Gun) delivers meaty bass lines coupled with Stevie “Dog” McLay on drums to provide a tight rhythm section that has your foot tapping before you realise it.
Lyrically, there’s a lot to do with relationships; different aspects and outside views on those of others. Healy’s vocals are robust, showing joy, sneering and anger in other parts and even some sorrow.
“Down by the River” has that blue collar feel that Springsteen built his name upon. One of the few songs on the record with backing vocals from a female voice, an atmospheric intro and outro and lyrics to appeal to the masses in that as long as people have each other, money and jobs make for survival but not happiness.
Meanwhile “Get on It” bubbles with anger at the prospect of pretentious people, the guitar solo exuding a frenzied, spitting anger and makes for a great album-opener and one of the strongest tracks. “Come Alive” appeals to the hope of a new relationship, hoping that something substantial can come of it but also speaks to the insecurities that both people may have with each other.
As for “Cold in the Night,” the Toi go full Bon Jovi on us. That big ballad chorus and a simple yet fitting melody. In spite of that the lyrics themselves are more universal; lusting for what was. If I had never heard the song before, I’d have to do a quick double-take. The main difference being Healy’s vocals have depth and I actually like the Toi.
“’Till the Morning Comes” and “The One” turn the band into a snarling hard rock outfit with some melodic parts sprinkled on top to flesh it out and appeal to a wider audience. And with production from Nick Brine and Dan Hawkins, they pull the band together to make for a tight, consistent and polished album.
After a few setbacks, the Toi have proven the wait has been worth it to deliver a fantastic debut effort with Water into Wine. It’s meaty, displaying some great musicianship but it’s easily digestible. If there’s one band in Glasgow that deserves more recognition, it’s these guys.
Water into Wine is out 2nd March