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Pop Music Reviews : More Maturity Than Missteps From Toy Matinee

April 23, 1991|CHRIS WILLMAN

The initial buzz on Toy Matinee was that the band was the pet project of Patrick Leonard, a songwriter and keyboardist famous as a favored collaborator with Madonna and Bryan Ferry. On Toy Matinee's recent debut album, Leonard is one of only two listed and pictured members of the group, his partner being young unknown quantity Kevin Gilbert.

So it was natural that when Toy Matinee made its local debut on Sunday at the Coach House and the more famous half of the founding duo was missing in action, sans explanation, some brave soul finally asked the inevitable: "Where's Pat?" (Answer: in England, working on a Roger Waters record.)

Actually, the band is much more the brainchild of Wunderkind Gilbert, who--in addition to having a major hand in the writing--sings, plays guitar and piano, tosses off onstage witticisms and shows a command of craft precociously beyond his 24 years.

His approach isn't perfectly developed yet, but the flair for hooks is already fully realized and there's much more maturity than there are missteps in his material, which is often impressively emotional even while slick.

Toy Matinee's sophisticated pop most approximates, say, latter-day Mr. Mister or Bourgeois Tagg, though an antecedent Gilbert might in more likelihood cite is Elton John, whose "Love Lies Bleeding" provided the sole non-original of the set. (He also looks like--and has the virtuosity of--a young Todd Rundgren.) The four pickup musicians Gilbert had in tow provided a faithful but more muscular approach to the tunes. Toy Matinee also plays the Strand on Wednesday and the Roxy on May 1.

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