It was one of the freak hits of the 1980s and, looking back at the chart of the day, it's still difficult to believe it actually happened. It's the week after Christmas 1984, and Band Aid logjam atop the U.K. charts. Wham! is at number two, Madonna is at number three, and sitting pretty at number four are power punk japesters the Toy Dolls and their frenetic rendition of a childrens' song that most Anglo baby boomers can still sing from memory. "Nellie the elephant packed her trunk and said goodbye to the circus, off she went," trumpity trumping across the rich and famous to give Olga, Flip, and Happy Bob a Christmas they'd never forget. Covered in Toy Dolls, while not quite re-creating the mad fission of that joyous moment, does ensure listeners never forget it -- nor forget the reason why it happened. Almost since its inception, punk had delighted in restoring old songs to new life, speeding them up, and slurring the words, maybe adding a ribald obscenity to the brew. The Toy Dolls were purer. When they took on a cover, they didn't simply punk it up -- they made it their own, and Covered in Toy Dolls is the brain-jangling outcome, a career's worth of utterly memorable massacres transformed into the demented jukebox of your dreams. From the Small Faces to the Proclaimers, Mozart to Jason Donovan, and onto another nursery favorite, the theme from Rupert the Bear, Covered in Toy Dolls is merciless, one zany revision after another. And while confirmed collectors will already have the majority of the tracks -- the Wakey Wakey, Orcastrated, and One More Megabyte albums are heartily plundered herein -- still the effect is utterly boggling, old songs in a new setting in every sense of the word. On the regular albums, after all, the covers are often confused with novelties. Here they are revealed as the very raison d'etre of the Toy Dolls, punk as purgative and a belly-laugh at the bellicosity of everyone who believes this band is a joke. Of course they are, but it's the listener who is the punch line. "And the head of the herd is calling, far, far away, she left one night by the silvery light."
Covered in Toy Dolls Review
by Dave Thompson