Albums from the local band circuit tend to be dominated by songs that are easy to translate live because the assumption is the group will be more successful if they put on a good show, which will draw listeners to their recorded material. On Plaything, local Montreal band Towanda present pummeling music, encompassing the likes of gothic rock, fuzz punk, and even some light metal in their unrelenting atmosphere. Hardcore music, although not intended for everyone, is always going to draw a crowd of some kind as the city never has a shortage of young concert-goers looking to rock out. Although Towanda certainly fit a lot of the blueprint requirements of an average night in the rock club, their vivid production and energetic performances carry their newest project to notable heights. Potential is everywhere, the refreshing take on distortion and electronically manipulated vocals signifying room for growth and originality while also acting as potent live material with biting grooves assaulting listeners from beginning to end.
The album enters a certain aesthetic immediately, the intro track beginning with brooding guitars dripping with distortion as psychedelic spoken word from Rosie Gripton speaks in verse about stepping out in the night where it “took some time…to see the ways [she’s] blind.” A bloodbath ensues on “Love is Wasted” with open drums complementing a rigorous, slow tempo groove, before the entrance of a particularly menacing vocal melody. Although the vocals have more melody on this track, the prologue track serves as a decent predecessor to the vocal conception of the full scale song, operating in roughly the same way with rhymes coming at a decisive pace. The tempo picks up on “Hedonism” with more chugging rhythmic devices pushing the music forward. After this song, the album begins to drift into stagnation, “He’s My Muse” and “New Lows” essentially falling into the same sound as “Hedonism.” The lyrics to “He’s My Muse,” however, are quite entertaining, Rosie Gripton discussing her submissive man’s well-mannered behavior, presenting a swapping of roles from the usual female-under-male gender norm. The second half of the record continues on a pretty similar curve with “Damage/Control” standing as a solid highlight, the droning instrumentals finishing the record off with one final earth shattering jam session.
The band could use more contrast in their songwriting. Even at only about 30 minutes in length, the album clearly falls into certain traps with a few too many songs sounding about the same. In the final cut on the album, the longest on the track-list, Towanda displays a lot of potential in their instrumentation. Unlike the more formulaic songs, “Damage/Control” builds throughout, making the most pummeling moments hold an even greater impact. On songs like “New Lows” and “Judge Me,” the most ruthless guitar playing is present from the very first downbeat, making the rest of the song speak on a sonic plateau. The group has the potential and talent to create songs that escape their usual structure, their next album just needs to emphasize unpredictability a bit more.
Even when the instrumentals reach a slight decline in contrast, Rosie Gripton’s vocals remain as energetic as ever. On “Judge Me,” Gripton balances screaming and singing perfectly, her vocals powerfully exploding over the rigorous instrumental. The slightest hint of vocal reverb allows her to fit into the sonic space provided by the rest of the band, making for a concise overall sound. Between this gripping vocal performance, and the bands highlight tracks, I am convinced that the group can put together solid songs compatible for a live setting. As a whole, Plaything is not a perfect project, but Towanda are certainly a powerhouse band with potential for future greatness.
Towanda has a lot of potential. I think if they bring a bit more contrast in their songwriting on the next project they could make serious strides as a punk/metal outfit.