Two GrungeReport.net readers, Ben Walton and Elijah Phillips, sent in reviews of the Toadies’ new album Play.Rock.Music.
BEN WALTON’S REVIEW OF PLAY.ROCK.MUSIC.
Aside from the song Possum Kingdom, and to some, the rest of their debut album Rubberneck, not many people appear to be aware of the rich back catalogue of Texas’ very own Toadies. Having released and toured their successful debut, Toadies suffered at the hands of record industry politics, having to scrap their first attempt at a follow up album. When their second album Hell Below/Stars Above finally limped out in 2001, 6 years after Rubberneck, they failed to replicate their early success with a confused and unfocused set of songs, and eventually split up.
In 2008 however, Toadies put out their first album of new material in 7 years, No Deliverance, signaling the beginning of a new period of activity, finally and officially putting out a re-recording of the initial sessions for their aborted second album in 2010. Play. Rock. Music. is therefore the first proper new Toadies album since No Deliverance, and where that album felt a little safe, and a little like Toadies-by-numbers, Play. Rock. Music. really hits the spot in delivering a brilliant collection of songs. In an interview recently, guitarist Clark Voegler stated that the band was originally going to do two EPs but decided to follow the momentum of these sessions and make it a full album. And thank God they did. This album is a powerhouse.
The album kicks off with the full tilt rocker Rattler’s Revival, a song that packs more balls and pure rock fury than most bands half their age. It feels like the Toadies are once more hungry and eager to make a mark. Then follows Get Low, another very anthemic tune which is heavy on bass. These songs kick the album off to stunning effect, and while it sounds like a Toadies album, there is something slightly different about it.
The next track on the album is Summer of the Strange, a song which comes closest to that classic Pixies-meets-grunge sound, with wailing guitars and a slow burning groove, before finally exploding into a furious, distorted conclusion. This is a band at the top of their game.
Elsewhere on the album, the slower moments also shine. Beside You is a slow burning tune with sweet lyrics. It is once again, slightly different to that classic Toadies sound, but not really enough to gain any new fans, or indeed alienate any of the old ones. The final track on the album, The Appeal is the biggest departure, a slow, bluesy number which in places calls to mind songs like Doll Skin and Pressed Against the Sky. It ends the album on an absolute high.
Play. Rock. Music. shows Toadies finally, 18 years after their debut, hitting their stride. This album is the strongest, most cohesive body of songs since Rubberneck, and could, with time even come to surpass that album. We can only hope that Toadies stay with us for longer this time.
ELIJAH PHILLIPS’ REVIEW OF PLAY.ROCK.MUSIC.
Toadies, the band responsible for one of the most prolific and enduring hard rock singles of the 90s, came roaring back into record stores this Tuesday with their new album: Play. Rock. Music.
Any GrungeReport frequenter is familiar with a kid named Jeremy, has felt the rhythm with their hands and understands the pent up rage of caged rodents. Outside alternative anthems from Seattle giants, one-hit-smashes from bands like Silverchair, Harvey Danger and Fastball helped shape the decade’s alternative airwaves. Toadies’ “Possum Kingdom” off their 1994 debut Rubberneck made it to the US Top 40, is a playable track on Guitar Hero and is still butchered regularly by cover bands across the nation.
Toadies formed in Ft. Worth, TX in the late 1980s. The success of their debut EP Pleather, their dynamite stage presence and distinctly Texan feel and sound quickly earned them a strong regional following and attention from national labels.
The track that broke the band ultimately proved to be the apex of their popularity. Toadies’ 1997 follow up attempt to Rubberneck, Feeler, was scrapped by Interscope (and eventually released a couple years back through the band’s current indie label: Kirtland). Their 2001 release Hell Below/Stars Above was released to positive critical and fan reception, yet again was largely shoved under the table by the band’s label. Toadies dissolved shortly thereafter.
Since their reunion in the middle part of the naughts, Toadies have gotten by through relying on the autonomy afforded to them by Kirtland (which fostered a fine hard rock album: 2007’s No Deliverance), the undying support of its ravenous underground fanbase and a stellar track record of live performances.
The lead single off Play. Rock. Music, “Summer of the Strange,” was released last May, and is the third track on the record. Doni Blair’s pulsating, hypnotic bassline lures one in at first listen. The track is everything a Toadies fan could hope for, complete with frontman Vaden Todd Lewis’ signature Bon Scott-meets-Chris Cornell shriek, squalls of feedback courtesy of guitarist Clark Vogeler and the bass-heavy pound of dummer Mark Reznicek. It’s a standout from 2012 and already a standard in Toadies’ catalogue.
“Sunshine,” track seven off the album, follows a classic formula for the band. Beginning softly and driven by a low, steady beat on the toms, the track gradually builds intensity. Lewis twists the knife with his vocal line, turning a catchy riff into a menacing howl and sends the song to a burning crescendo.
The next track, “Laments of a Good Man,” is one of Toadies‘ most inventive. It features two distinct parts. One: a maniacal, vaudevillian, even cartoonish shuffle about the drags of everyday life. Two: a grind that would’ve felt right at home on Alice in Chains’ “Three-Legged Dog” album. It doesn’t gel on paper, but seems natural in the context of the record.
Track ten on the record, “We Burned the City Down,” showcases some of Toadies’ Texan roots. Its country thump and acoustic guitar intro are reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp.” The guitar work is excellent throughout the song, and Lewis lays one of his strongest vocals on top of it. As the song grooves to a rollicking end, it forms a nice segue into the album’s closer: the Beatlesque ballad “The Appeal.”
Play. Rock. Music does exactly what its title promises; it’s a solid rock record from one of the most intense bands going. Though it still carries Toadies’ trademark growl, it’s by far some of the band’s most accessible work. The Pixies-flavored guitar riffs present in much of Toadies’ past catalogue have never been more prevalent, and Reznicek’s beats carry the same Southern-style groove often laid down by Frank Beard of ZZ Top. The feel of the record as a whole is conveyed very adequately in its first track: “Rattler’s Revival.” Lewis implores listeners to “shake your tail, shake it like a rattler” over a catchy, fast paced melody. The song is still unmistakably Toadies, yet may be more suitable for new listeners than the old guard.
In a world going increasingly devoid of real-deal rock bands—shit-stomping, cussing, mean, bluesy, mofos—the world needs the Toadies. Play. Rock. Music., while not the strongest work in the band’s catalogue, and certainly not the heaviest, is a solid entry into their discography and a breath of fresh air for the music scene of 2012. At its worst: it’s solid car stereo fodder. At its best: it’s sheer brilliance.
Toadies are currently on tour with Helmet, another standard bearer of the 90s one-hit-wonder (and an underappreciated progenitor of the decade’s alt-metal movement), in a city near you. If you want to see a legit rock show, pick up a ticket. If you want to hear a legit rock album, pick up Play. Rock. Music.