Going Over the Top

Los Angeles Times

March 7, 1989

Pop Music Reviews Going Over the Top With the Toll at Bogart’s
By Duncan Strauss

In the Midwest, a show by the Toll is a fire marshal’s nightmare. People there speak of the group in reverential terms, and there’s a palpable buzz surrounding its debut release, “The Price of Progression.”

What a difference a few states make. The Ohio quartet’s local debut at Bogart’s on Sunday drew maybe 50 people. The Toll hasn’t raised its profile by releasing a 10-minute song as its first single, “Jonathan Toledo.” Actually, that epic is a representative calling card not only because two other songs on the album clock in at more than 10 minutes, but also because these humorless lads are often way over the top-for better and worse.

Over huge, guitar-driven anthemic passages, singer Brad Circone improvises different narratives and lyrics, ranging from the effects of a Catholic upbringing to the mind-set of a middle-aged woman trapped in an unfulfilling marriage. On Sunday, his pumped-up stage antics included a full flip and a sudden fall onto the dance floor.

The Toll (which plays the Coach House tonight and Club Lingerie on Thursday) won’t be everyone’s cup of sonic tea. But with the showy theatrics, the nightly tightrope act of verbal improvisations and a big sound, this is clearly an arena-rock band waiting to happen. With enough touring-and some shorter singles-it probably will.