Toby Dammit: Top Dollar

Toby Dammit
Top Dollar

Yeah, I used to frequent the dance clubs when I was younger. Back in ’93 and ’94 it was not uncommon at all to see me at The Underground four nights a week. There I’d be, just carving away some permanent spots in the floorboards with my stylin’ sneaks as DJ Stormboy would be wowing us with big ass mixes of Jaydee’s “Plastic Dreams”, Lionrock’s reworking of Björk’s “Big Time Sensuality”, William Orbit’s Stereo Odyssey mix of One Dove’s “Breakdown”, that hideously long remix of The Golden Palominos’ “Prison of the Rhythm”, and Bauhaus’ “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” just to charm the pants off the goth kids. Yes, those were fine times indeed.

Of course after two years of all this dancing around, things changed a bit. The scene changed, the music changed, Stormboy focused more on playing these boring house mixes and ambient hoo-ha and the old crowd moved on. Or we got older. Yet the kiddies keep cruising around in their modified vehicles complete with top dollar sound systems and bass cannons lodged squarely into their trunks. I never understood that, really. To this day you can hear the hand me downs of our generation thumping two miles away before you even get them in your sights.

These kinds of kids are the ones who’ll gladly just go out and buy the kinds of albums DJs use to help them keep time and transition from one track to the next in their mixes. You know, those discs filled with nothing but bass loops and beats and every combination thereof sequenced into all different BPM rates and what have you. I haven’t seen many of those albums in a while, but the club kids should fear no more as Toby Dammit has recently issued his Top Dollar disc, filled with all sorts of beats and loops to get your low rider bumping.

Dammit is a percussionist so the focus here is on the beat and not necessarily the melody. So if you’re looking for something that you can alternately dance and listen to, then you may be out of luck. Indeed, Top Dollar may be a great tool for DJs and club beat enthusiasts but it doesn’t stretch much more beyond that. I’ve listened to this one a number of times and have to honestly say that it gets annoying pretty quick if you’re not cutting the rug out under the strobe lights. It’s definitely not an album you’ll put on as background noise or just to sit and listen to.

Was it silly of me to think that Dammit’s composition entitled “Jolly Coppers on Parade” was a cover of the same-titled tune by Randy Newman from his Little Criminals LP? Perhaps, but then again I was hoping Dammit was just being a diamond in the rough by covering something strange and updating it for non-Newman fans. Ah well, Randy’s better off. But how best to describe the six tunes that make up this album? The opening track “Number One Famous” has some interesting voice samples and a solid beat, but then after a minute of that beat with very little change (or at least enough change to keep non club goers fascinated) things get monotonous pretty fast.

So you skip around the disc. From “Modus Operandi” on track two to “Roadblocks Here and Here” on track three. Hmmm. More of the same. I mean, Dammit is a fine percussionist and beat svengali, but I’d go so far as to say that most high school marching bands can keep your attention for longer periods of time than these tracks. Nice interlocked beats that are juxtaposed and shuffled and remixed into the mighty pounding spectrum of nntz nntz nntz over and over again. If you make it to “Malmo Nocturne (Mansson’s Theme)” and “Escape from Fire Island (An Erotic Fantasy)” as a casual listener without taking a break in there at some point, then kudos to you. I had to listen to Top Dollar in segments, interspersing it with other things to keep my attention.

As I said, Dammit’s album probably makes a terrific DJ tool that mixmasters can have a field day with. Fans of the big beat may also like it as well. It just may be a bit of a difficult listen for the rest of it. Top Dollar is definitely an album for a select bunch. And even though Dammit may have “possibly the glossiest CD booklet ever” with this release, I wouldn’t mind having a bit more interesting music to go with that packaging.