Todd Congelliere has been banging out infectious punk jams in the San Pedro area under various guises and band configurations for over 20 years now. It started with the drum machine and four track abuse of F.Y.P., which progressed into a very respectable run of albums throughout the ’90s before evolving into the more sporadic and measured Toys That Kill. Fambly 42 is only the fourth full-length release the band has put out in the past 13 years, a lethargic snail’s pace in a genre where bands form, put out twice as much, and disband in half the time. The overall sound of the band remains the same: lo-fi leaning jangle punk anthems topped by Congelliere’s higher-pitched bark. Drum parts and song structures even seem to be recycled from the previous Toys That Kill release, 2006’s excellent Shanked!. Yet, for as little progression that Toys That Kill have made, Fambly 42 remains an undeniably joyous release that crackles with intensity, possessing a shambolic charm that is very hard to resist.
It’s all in the presentation. There are very few moments or chord progressions that will surprise longtime listeners of the band or anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of punk music from the past two decades. What each song holds inside of itself is a sort of last-minute thrill, as if each one was captured at the moment of discovery. Five years may have passed since Shanked!, but it frequently sounds like the band convened five days before recording and just tore into a wave of pure inspiration. This unfortunately results to some tracks that are nearly identical to one another (“V-Chip” and “I’ve Been Stabbed” especially), but more often than not, the final products are triumphant victory drives (“The Nervous Rocks,” “Mobbed By The 3’s”).
When Toys That Kill do divert from their formula, as they do on the high-jumping “I’m Foaming” and the slow-building “Who Scored?,” the proceedings approach the same adeptness at transition and mood-builiding as those paragons of prickly malaise, Archers Of Loaf. Congelliere’s F.Y.P. bandmate Sean Cole gets to step up to vocalist duty on a handful of cuts here, and they swing towards the more rawly emotional and groove oriented, especially on de facto title track “Fambly,” which saunters along at a more vintage garage rock pace.
Keeping with the spirit of the songs, Fambly 42’s production gives a feel of first takes captured in dirty, hot basements. Guitars clang and jangle with string-snapping intensity while Denis Flep’s drum set thwacks and crashes away in the back, pushing things towards the edge of control. The whole thing is like a skyscraper with an earthquake-proof base, but a facade made of toothpicks and scotch tape. Not the prettiest thing, but something that still stands strong.
Arguably, Fambly 42 could do with a little editing, as the overall sound of the album begins to blur together by the time closer “Clap For Alaska” gets a chance to unfurl. Then again, assuming Toys That Kill make everyone wait another five years before another dispatch from their well of strike-while-hot inspiration bouts, they could’ve actually gotten away with stuffing Fambly 42 even further. As it stands, it’s simply another high-quality entry in a catalog that can already boast several.