Years ago, back around the time I was first just starting to scratch the surface of the local scene, I caught a random Friday night show at New Brunswick’s Court Tavern that included a young band called Monterey. Later that night I got caught up talking with the band’s drummer, Matt DeBenedetti and he invited my buddy and I to what would be the first real New Brunswick basement show I ever went to, at a place called the Bomb Shelter, where they were playing with other locals American Lions and The Blithedale Romance.
Fast forward to 2016, in the first weeks on N.J. Racket, I’d run into DeBenedetti again at a show and he would invite me to another basement show, the first which would be covered on the site, for the release of his new band, Toy Cars, new EP, Sleeping Patterns, with a show that also featured Hodera, ManDancing, and Dollys.
Last Friday night, Toy Cars would release their first full length album, titled Paint Brain, with a big event at the House of Independents in Asbury Park. Since I’ve started N.J. Racket, a lot of people not from the scene have asked me why I bother do this. Nights like this past Friday are why.
Toy Cars, the band fronted by DeBenedetti with Matt Caponegro on lead guitar, Chris Beninato on bass, and Mike Linardi on drums has been working on Paint Brain almost since the release of Sleeping Patterns. As any band will tell you, the time and effort required to complete a full length album is absolutely exhausting and at numerous points in the last year I recall speaking about it with DeBenedetti, who as far back as July was already bursting with excitement for people to finally hear what they had been working on. To have such a big release show, to be accompanied by other great bands such as Well Wisher, DRMCTHR, Halogens, and Latewaves, and to draw the large crowd they did was well deserved and I couldn’t be happier for the band and their success.
The album itself is twelve track of everything of everything that’s come to be expected of Toy Cars. Ripping guitars, driving rhythms, and heartfelt, anthemic vocals to scream along to. Toy Cars has always excelled in being able to blur the line between introspective, sentimental melodies and four-bar, head banging guitar rock. This band has lived by this ethos with all their hits from 2015’s “Letters,” 2016’s “Stone,” and now with 2018’s “Truth Be Told.”
Of course, Toy Cars has at the same time managed to take several steps forward in their songwriting, which was exemplified in the album’s first single “Erie,” which featured vocal accompaniment by Jenna Murphy of Prim. This track actually pulls back on the guitars in favor of synth and vocal harmonies, creating a more serene mood which juxtaposes the majority of the album thus accentuating both the high and low points without reducing the emotional gravitas of either.
Following the release of Paint Brain, Toy Cars will be setting out on tour with DRMCTHR through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland before returning home. In the meantime, you should get your hands and ears on the album because these dudes put so much into its creation just so you would love it, and I’m sure you will.
Adam gave man-birth to N.J. Racket and is as close to an "editor-in-chief" the site has. He's a god awful photographer.