As anyone who has ever wandered into a guitar store especially knows, boys love their toys. Watch the acne-plagued teenager’s eyes close and lips part as he grasps a Fender Strat in his grubby mitts; see the bulge in his pants rise as he twiddles some knobs and leans into the wah-wah pedal. Witness 30-year-old “DJ Breath Weapon,” who still lives with his parents, take command of the sampler, showing it who’s Daddy now.
So it isn’t at all surprising that Matt Mahaffey (a/k/a Self) recorded his new album using only toy instruments. What’s surprising is his claim that it hasn’t been done before—surely Frank Zappa, Beck, or even John Cage must’ve pondered the possibilities of ripping a mean Mattel See & Say solo. At certain points during Gizmodgery, it seems like the entire history of recorded music has been leading up to this album, as if it was only a natural progression from the Les Paul to the Hasbro Musi-Link. Edgard Varèse experimenting with early musique concrète, Trent Reznor manhandling a bank of synthesizers, Mahaffey holed up in a Murfreesboro, Tennessee, studio with a gazillion plastic noisemakers—what’s the difference?
“Trunk Fulla Amps” samples Danzig, ELO, Lenny Kravitz, and Queen (no lie), while “ILoveToLoveYourLoveMyLove” is a doo-wop parody. The cover of the Doobie Brothers’ “What a Fool Believes” takes falsettos and keyboard hooks from early-’80s Prince. “Ordinaire” sounds enough like a modern-rock hit to call Matchbox 20’s instrumentation into question. But Gizmodgery‘s best song is easily “Pattycake,” a funky romp through the pleasures of being a kid. Its “Miss Lucy Had a Steamboat” interpolation is the greatest musical use of a playground chant since, uh, “Country Grammar.” Which only proves that, at its heart, rock and roll is little more than child’s play.