released August 17th, 2010
from the album - Dead Boy
from all music
Best known as the creators of the 1995 grunge staple "Possum Kingdom," the Toadies formed in 1989 and spent their infancy playing shows in Fort Worth, TX. Musicians cycled in and out of the Toadies lineup from the very start, and the group soon became the domain of frontman Todd Lewis, a Pixies-influenced musician who wrote and produced the band's early releases. After issuing a series of homemade tapes and bringing drummer Mark Reznicek into the fold, the band released a proper EP, Pleather, in 1993. Pleather attracted attention from Interscope Records, who signed the Toadies soon after the EP's release.
Now financed by a major label, the Toadies entered the recording studio with producers Tom Rothrock and Rob Schnapf, who had previously worked together on Beck's platinum-selling album Mellow Gold. Released in August 1994, Rubberneck brought the Toadies similar success by going gold the following year and platinum by the end of 1996. Most of that popularity was due to "Possum Kingdom," a stark song with a 7/8 time signature that nevertheless became a Top 40 single. With replacement guitarist Clark Vogeler now on board, the group enjoyed its temporary space in the post-grunge landscape, playing high-profile shows with the likes of Bush, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the Butthole Surfers.
The Toadies had trouble producing a worthy follow-up to Rubberneck, however. Returning to the studio in 1997, they recorded a batch of new material and planned to release the resulting album, Feeler, in 1998. Interscope objected to the new songs and permanently shelved the project, prompting the disenchanted group to take a break for the rest of the decade. The Toadies eventually resumed their pace in 2001, salvaging some songs from the Feeler sessions and recording new material as well. Their long-awaited sophomore album finally arrived in the form of Hell Below/Stars Above, which featured production from Rothrock/Schnapf and a brief cameo by Elliott Smith, who played piano on the title track. During the national tour that followed, though, longtime bassist Lisa Umbarger announced her decision to throw in the towel, and the rest of the group followed suit. Best of Toadies: Live from Paradise appeared shortly after the groupís breakup.
Although the Toadies reunited throughout the following years for one-off shows, they didnít officially re-form until 2008, when Lewis, Reznicek, and Vogeler banded together once again to record No Deliverance. Longtime friend Doni Blair ó whose previous band, Hagfish, had emerged from the same Dallas/Ft. Worth underground scene as the Toadies ó played bass during the resulting tour.
The Toadies never planned to take a seven-year hiatus between their hit 1994 debut, Rubberneck, and its 2001 sequel, Hell Below/Stars Above. The band recorded a full album called Feeler in 1997, but Interscope rejected the album, pushing it deep into the vaults and having the group record a brand-new album, resulting in a long break that effectively stalled any momentum they had in their career. The Toadies finally started to get things rolling again as an independent act in 2008 when they attempted to release Feeler once again, but the label refused to sell them the rights to the record (there were some unsubstantiated suggestions that the master tapes had been lost), so the Toadies did the next best thing: they re-recorded the material and released it on their own. Now, the 2010 Feeler isnít necessarily the same album that the 1997 Feeler is, and not just because a handful of songs that wound up on Hell Below are absent: the Toadies didnít re-create, they simply play the songs. Without A-Bing the original recordings and this 2010 revival itís impossible to know the subtle differences, but thereís a certain sense of accomplished musicianship that the Toadies lacked in the late Ď90s, an era in which the songs are otherwise rooted. There are no undeniable hooks along the lines of ďPossum Kingdom,Ē but the ten songs ó clocking in at a crisp 28 minutes ó are sturdily constructed and would have by no means been an embarrassment if they had appeared in 1998Öand even if itís unlikely that they would have been commercial enough to be a hit, it would have been enough to keep the bandís career momentum going. As a record in 2010, the ten songs are an unapologetic throwback, not quite distinctive enough to suggest that a reevaluation of the band is in order, but certainly pleasing for fans ó and even if youíre not a fan, itís hard not to be a little pleased that this forgotten chapter in the bandís history has been published.
1 Trust Game Lewis, Reznicek, Vogeler 2:58
2 Waterfall Lewis, Reznicek, Vogeler 3:51
3 Dead Boy Lewis, Reznicek, Vogeler 2:58
4 City of Hate Lewis, Reznicek, Vogeler 4:03
5 Mine Lewis, Reznicek, Vogeler 2:18
6 Suck Magic Lewis, Reznicek, Vogeler 3:03
7 ATF Theme Lewis, Reznicek, Vogeler 2:17
8 Joey Let's Go Lewis, Reznicek, Vogeler 3:38
9 Pink Lewis, Reznicek, Vogeler 3:07