It merely takes a frequent Toys-R-Us shopper to fiddle around with a random assortment of trinkets and come up with a jingle, but it takes a musical genius like Self’s Matt Mahaffey to mold those toys into a euphonious style all his own. And with a collection of toddler items like My 1st shaver and the Talking Whiz Kids Plus, he did just that — wrote an entire album made exclusively with toy instruments that has the authentic texture and mentality of a mature and unique pop band. It’s almost inconceivable how this album was possibly put together, but it’s even more outstanding that these toys didn’t dictate where the album went. Matt knew exactly what he was doing, and you can hear it as he samples every bleep and blip to orchestrated perfection.
This is hardly a simple gimmick. Exerting more feeling and craftsmanship than anything on the radio, these are real good songs: they’re catchy, they’re poppy, upbeat, fun, and occasionally disco or electronic. With or without real instruments, Self’s song-writing is so distinctive that if the album insert didn’t make a point of listing all the toys used, the spectacle of Gizmodgery could easily be overlooked. Yet because of the method in which it was made, the record works on two levels: it’s good music, and it’s fun to try and pick out the individual toys that are both sampled, used as texture, or make up the dominant portion of each song. The tunes on Gizmodgery are tight and eccentric, maintaining a fun and carefree nature while switching up structure and pace for a more interesting listen — as if the toys weren’t enough to keep it entertaining. Fronted by Matt’s buoyant and sometimes high-pitched voice, which he uses to spout typical Self lyrics of quirky circumstances and poetic obscurity, and these toys have become a choir to behold.
Spongebath Records, 101 N. Maple St., Murfreesboro, TN 37130