The Playthings Demo Mode
Reviewed by Greg Beets, Fri., Nov. 24, 2000
Demo ModeTwenty years ago today, every major label had a stable of reliable, quirk-laden bands with one foot steeped in New Wave and the other planted on the terra firma of radio readiness. For every act like the Knack who hit one out of the park, you had umpteen other bands like Paul Collins' Beat, the Kings, the Producers, and the Pop who never realized chart success. The Playthings lift several defining elements from this lost pantheon of power-pop while adding scruffed-up punkisms borne of their own miscreant playfulness. "You Don't Like Me" jumps with a Ramones power chord coupled with a frug-worthy surf-bop beat. "Dumpster Diver" maintains that high-energy vibe before veering off into a disconcerting, herky-jerk chorus. Reagan-era keyboards boost the skinny-tie quotient considerably on "The Masses Are Asses(ed)," and "Try It You'll Like It," the latter driven by the obvious-yet-convincing assertion that "fucking is good." Unlike the more artful New Wave revisionists, Austin's Playthings aren't afraid to jump around and spill beer on your new Italian shoes. Instead of flaunting down-from-the-attic kitsch as some misbegotten retro-fashion statement, they dig deep for lost hooks with all the unbridled enthusiasm power-pop itself engenders. That's what I like about them.