Toadies – Play.Rock.Music
At Full Extension
It’s been nearly twenty years since flannel-clad, Texas foursome Toadies banged out their 1994 hit, “Possum Kingdom.” Off their debut record, Rubberneck, the sinister grunge number was lapped up amid a season of Cobains, Corgans and Cornells, enjoying heavy rotation in its day. What soon followed for the group was an all-too-familiar tale of industry heartbreak: label Interscope Records unexpectedly shelved their ’97 follow-up Feeler, effectively scrubbing an album’s worth of material and sending guitarist/vocalist Todd Lewis and company on a disenchanted hiatus. Now with a break-up, reunion and label change behind them, Toadies have released their fifth studio album, Play.Rock.Music, a steady set of tracks hearkening all the way back to Rubberneck.
Toggling between his well-worn tenor and a ditsy spoken-word delivery, Lewis seems to enjoy being grunge’s Jekyll and Hyde. Or maybe Hyde and Hyder? In opening number “Rattles Revival,” he barks through a macho monologue with a snake-hander’s fervor amidst a lean grit-your-teeth boogie, while in the off-beat “Summer of Strange,” Lewis reprises his more traditional delivery over a pouncing, staccato rocker. He even flicks on a Chris Cornell-style rasp in “Magic Bullet,” perhaps vestigial from the band’s hard-charging days of Hell Below/Stars Above.
But Play.Rock.Music is not so much take-no-prisoners as it is whacked-out. “Laments of a Good Man” is outright comical, bouncing like a DUI Easter Bunny and employing a call-and-response reminiscent of Green Jelly’s classic, “Three Little Pigs”—whereas “Epic Castles” apes around with a twangy, Primus-affected itchiness. Lyrics often take a narrative form, exploring strange vignettes featuring an ensemble cast of Joe and Jane Six-packs, losers and loner romantics.
The stalker menace of “Possum Kingdom” is revisited in “Beside You,” a tale from the perspective of an obsessive who assures his fey target, “I’ll always be closer than you know.” The song’s tidy construction and quiet-to-loud roar would put a smile on any Gen-Xers face. Still, other songs like “Sunshine” and “Get Low” seem a little warmed-over. All told, Toadies’ fifth batch has a cookie for every palate: fun-house hip shakers, black-fingernail grunge and even an affecting R&B closer in “The Appeal.” The variety is so vast as to suggest more than one chef in the kitchen—or maybe a single cook on conflicting medications. Regardless, the disparities threaten to pull the album apart, yet the membrane never fully gives way—ending instead at a sustained hyper-extension perhaps only Toadies could achieve.Search for Toadies albums on Amazon
Posted in Reviews
Related Toadies Content:
Toadies to Play Rubberneck In Its Entirety for the First Time During SXSW 2014 at Stubb’s BBQ
Dia De Los Toadies Festival Announce 2013 Lineup Featuring Toadies, Gary Clark Jr., James Hall, and More
Toadies Reveal More Tour Dates
Toadies – Play.Rock.Music