Those of you familiar with Wooden Wand will surely recognize the work of James Jackson Toth, but it’s possible that his early project as Golden Calves might have slipped under your radar. Luckily for you, Woodsist has run a small reissue of of his two releases, combining them into one double LP collection. While there’s definitely some enjoyable moments on places, many listeners will find the tinkering a bit too much at times, and seemingly self-indulgent.
I’m not going to sit here and praise Toth and his Golden Calves for some incredible creation, as a great deal of this album seems like meaningless dribble. In fact, there’s barely a completed four songs on the first half that is comprised entirely of Money Band. That record comes off as an elementary attempt to create something artful and completely off the beaten path. That being said, there are some elements that clearly come through on that side, such as “Seraphim Radar Rallies.” It’s still a bit basic and experimental, but there’s an endearing quality in the composition, much like the early works from Elf Power. By and large, however, the first half of this record can be wholly discarded. It’s a specialty collector’s piece for fans of JJT, which is understandable, but no more than that.
What’s interesting is seeing the evolution from Point A to Point B, which comes through in the Century Band 12″ recordings. There’s a bit more of a conscious effort to compose structures, albeit in the slightly confounding manner that Toth’s early work took on. Still, Toth’s comments seem to acknowledge his faults in the compositions, as he clearly realizes that this was a starting point for a budding musician. You’ll find a song like “Mod Bacteria,” however, a pleasurable tune; it’s one you can actually find yourself listening to again and again, including the faint haunting vocal in the background. “Atrium 5: The Absinthe Labyrinth” is another such track, with carefully picked guitar and Toth carefully plodding along with his vocals. These are where we hope his talents began, as clearly there’s a background for a strong future in these songs.
All in all, I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I hate this. There’s just enough of an oddity within that really grasps the young indie rock listener in me, shaking him awake again. Back in my early days when I was blown away by things just because they were weird and different, I was on top of the world, and that’s sort of the sentiment you get from Toth in these recordings. He was young and ambitious; he just wanted to put it all on tape. For what its worth, you’ll find some gems, and you’ll find some trash, but mostly you’ll find a special recording that you should be able to enjoy if you remove your blinders and get lost in the experience.