Long a mainstay in Fort Wayne, Misfit Toys have seen fit to grace Allen County with Strangely Complicated, a studio CD of original songs. Much like their live performances, the Toys brought in a bevy of guest musicians to round out their sound, adding a good deal of spice and variety not often found in local releases.
The album kicks off with “Survivor,” featuring wah guitar, wailing sax, a foot-moving groove and a slight 70s white-boy R&B feel. With three vocalists in the band I’m not sure who sings this, but whoever does has a clean, unforced Seals & Croft timbre that gives it a laid-back vibe. Tim Manges lays down a bouncy bass line on the jangly and humorous “Cigarettes” which is centered around the chorus of “I may not be able to quit smokin’ cigarettes / But I can quit seeing you.” Sax accents abound in the jazzy “Alone For Good,” compliments of Dan Cappelli and Brandon Rentfrow. At a whopping 7:34 this song leaves plenty of room for solos. (Ya gotta love that baritone sax … grandpa sez so!)
“No Big Time” is another groove-laden jamfest full of sax with Randy Spencer on sizzling lead guitar and Gary Johnson on trumpet. Melissa Perkins adds her silken vocals to five tracks, singing lead on two of these and adding yet another sonic texture to delight the ears. Of special note is
“Simplicated,” a light song augmented by organs, clean guitars and drummer Tim Diss doing double duty on kit and hand percussion. Other highlights include “Don’t Tell Me,” which features a breezy folk feel and three-part Crosby, Stills & Nash vocal harmonies, and “Dime,” a countrified song for the down and out. The 14-tracks disc, including a live version of “Dime” recorded in May 2001 at The Embassy, runs at a generous 68 minutes.
With full-color screen printing on the CD and insert, the advantages of having two lawyers in the band is obvious. It’s also apparent that they spent a good chunk of change and time recording this because Monastic Chambers did a mind-blowing job on the production. The instruments and vocals are clear and full with not a speck of mud in sight. Jon Gillespie, I assume, also assisted the band in fleshing out these songs to be more than just a snapshot of their live performances with overdub ideas and oodles of those little production extras that make for interesting re-listens. With great songs played by superb musicians, adding Strangely Complicated to your collection is solid investment.
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