Now, you too can own your very own digitally remastered, band (drummer Jon Coats, GToT recording artist Dave Rick, and Third Border/Doug Gillard band bassist Gerard Smith) approved collection of tunes known as Power Toy. Originally released on Homestead Records in 1988, and notoriously re-imagined with Bob Pollard as Beard of Lightning in 2003, the second full length Phantom Tollbooth album has been long out of print in its original form. On sale now at Amazon.com. Just in time for Thanksgiving, butterball!
Some of those prone to facile analogies have compared this latter-day power trio led by guitarist Dave Rick (an early member of Yo La Tengo and a frequent participant in Bongwater and B.A.L.L. before joining King Missile fulltime in 1990) to Hüsker Dü and the Minutemen, but New York's Phantom Tollbooth was more like a thrash-inflected version of Fred Frith's Massacre than anything else. (In all fairness, the inclusion of an original song entitled "Flip Your Wig" on Phantom Tollbooth didn't help matters.) Various art-rock influences — quick tempo shifts, the occasional jazzy swing and the use of noise as a genuine musical element (rather than a cheap way to telegraph rage or intensity) — gave these guys away.
That said, it must be added that Tollbooth's addition of vocals to its heady and complex clamor wasn't always the greatest thing for the music. One-Way Conversation and Power Toy (which has a pretty funny version of Heart's "Barracuda" and two bonus tracks on CD) contain the band's best, most focused work, a striking synthesis of the art-rock that so clearly influenced its song structures and the frenzied attack of hardcore.