The Toy Trucks Deliver Stomping Pop Flavors On Debut Platter 

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Jeremy Scott is familiar to any fan of Memphis music, having played in the original Reigning Sound and groups backing Harlan T. Bobo and Dan Montgomery.

But though his ensemble playing reveals a fine sense of playing at the service of the song, it's barely offered a glimpse of his songwriting talents. For a time, he led the Wallendas, which also included longtime guitar ace Jim Duckworth, but that was ancient history in pop terms, and never resulted in a full length release.

Nonetheless, as Scott's Sunday night DJ slot on WEVL makes clear, he is steeped in the history of pop and rock, old and new, and something was bound to come of it. Now, with his band the Toy Trucks making their debut, rockets bells and poetry (Black & Wyatt), we can finally hear all that cumulative experience blossom into some fine material.

Starting in the 70s, there has been a niche for bands combining a chugging rock energy with a healthy dose of concise 60s pop songwriting. Some aficionados treasure that sound in the form of classic records by the likes of Fingerprintz, the Undertones, or the Flaming Groovies, to name a few.

Here, Scott and company channel that same balance of pop wistfulness and pounding rock juvenile delinquency that was the trademark of such groups, especially the Groovies. An unflinching chord-savvy craftsmanship informs compositions which are then brought to life in lively, garagey, unpretentious ways.

click to enlarge The Toy Trucks:  Dylan Kranmer, Jeremy Scott, Ryno Hanson & Steve Barnat
  • The Toy Trucks: Dylan Kranmer, Jeremy Scott, Ryno Hanson & Steve Barnat

The album kicks off on the harder side of that equation, with Scott's full-throated scream announcing, “I ain't no rag!!” From there, we detour into the widescreen rock stomp of “Blood In the Sand,” and on into the album's stylistic potpourri, all held together by Scott's voice, which can both carry his rich melodies or group harmonies, and explode into urgent growls and yelps when needed.

Witty lyrics nonetheless cut to the quick: “She can't stop herself, so the cycle begins again...it's all self-inflicted” and similar lines offer some hard-won relationship wisdom. Meanwhile, the riffs can divert into unexpectedly tender arrangements, as on the drumless strum-along of “Show You Love” or the sweetly naive “57 Bayview,” both graced with lush background vocals.

As a whole, the Toy Trucks serve as torch bearers for what is sometimes dubbed pub rock, sometimes power pop (of the less proggy variety), but what, under any name, has always relied on solid, eclectic songwriting. And, in the age of loops and rehashes of the same four chords, the variety and emotional heft of such music, delivered with a bit of pugilistic panache, is more apparent and more welcome than ever.

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