One Toy Soldier - Concrete Smiles at the Midnight Hospital Diner (Cover Artwork)

One Toy Soldier

Concrete Smiles at the Midnight Hospital Diner (2005)


If I said that One Toy Soldier were an emo band, their name and long album title would probably make the average Punknews reader post something brilliantly scathing and witty. If I said that they were, y'know, actually a real emo band, or at least one in the style of the early albums by top `90s blokes Jimmy Eat World, Mineral or the Appleseed Cast I'd probably get the same result. But, whatever, I'm saying it anyway.

If One Toy Soldier had all been born 10 years earlier, they could easily have been one of the finest emo bands of the 1990s. On their debut album, all the expected elements are there: raw production; angry distorted parts contrasted with soft melodic parts; emotional yet incomprehensible lyrics and vocals contrasted with the occasional frantic scream.

The music is equal parts passionate and angsty and fun and danceable, but perhaps most importantly, it is varied. Unlike some newer bands who try and emulate this style, One Toy Soldier avoid driving the style into the ground by essentially writing the same song 10 times. "Your Loss" bounces around with an upbeat, catchy pop-punk feel and has the closest thing to a sing-along on the album. "The Desperate" takes some of the better aspects of the usually annoying Libertines-style British indie rock genre and turns it into something listenable. "Find Your Goodbyes" is the token acoustic number. The album's closer, however, "Wear and Tear" has a post-rock style crescendo that finishes Concrete Smiles off in a breathtaking and epic fashion.

This is not to say the other tracks aren't good, though. Opener "Needles the Miracle Boy" is typical emo fare: rough and explosive with plenty of screams, but balanced out by the melodic jangly guitars that create the basis of many of the songs of the album. "Snakes and Ladders," which is only narrowly my favourite track on the album, wouldn't feel out of place on Mineral's Power of Failing.

Thanks to Pete "Selling Out Is Brilliant" Wentz and friends, emo has become something of a dirty word and a bunch of youngsters like One Toy Soldier are exactly what the genre needs to shake it up and make it all right again. I'd give this album 10 out of 10 if not for the fact that their new material is even better. Take note, kids with fringes, this is something special.