“Maybe I’ll find…a new religion
Underneath a rock…with no television,
With no distractions…only survival,
Perhaps I’ll witness…a great revival.” (from opening track Rattler’s Revival)
A great revival, indeed.
Over 10 years have passed since Toadies released the criminally overlooked Hell Below, Stars Above and broke up shortly afterward. In those 10 years they have reunited, released a nice return to form in 2008’s No Deliverance, re-recorded and released Feeler (their rejected follow-up to Rubberneck) and created a nice buzz of anticipation for their next disc.
If you’ve heavily perused The Sonic Abyss, you’ve probably learned who some of my favorite bands are…and Toadies are one of them. Wrongly thrown into the catch-all “post grunge” category, they’re one of the coolest and most fiercely original rock bands of our age. Album after album bursts with barely harnessed energy, delicious hooks and careening rhythmic shifts that make listening to a Toadies disc a lot like riding a really good roller coaster.
Now we all want the next album by our favorite bands to be their best yet. That can’t always happen (rarely does), but it’s great to follow a band that consistently delivers the goods like Toadies. When I found out a new album was in the works for release this year, I was hoping it would be their classic “magnum opus” that Hell Below, Stars Above tried hard to be.
As soon as I saw the cover, something about the unapologetic simplicity of the title gave me the immediate feeling that this is the album I’ve been waiting for and, well, they’ve done it. Play.Rock.Music. is a fitting title for a disc that screams boldly “this is us.” While song structures have gotten more orthodox, the instrumentation, guitar textures and occasional spoken word verses (Rattler’s Revival, Epic Castles) keep everything comfortably left of center. Even the more straight-ahead rockers are left of center. This is rock music…Toadies style.
The aforementioned Rattler’s Revival is one helluva call-to-arms to kick off the disc and Get Low follows up delivering a powerful mid-paced groove with a relentless energy that doesn’t let up, whatever the velocity. My fave raves right off the bat (I’m listening to the disc for about the 12th straight time right now) are the two aforementioned tracks, Magic Bullet, Sunshine, Epic Castles and epic Toadies-style hoedown We Burned The City Down. Laments of a Good Man is another wicked Toadies curveball that grows on me with each listen. It’s really quite deliciously bizarre.
Truth is, there’s not a duff track to be found on Play.Rock.Music. I have my favorites, but this is one album full of the strengths of one of the most underrated bands in the history of rock and roll. After all these years, congratulations Toadies…you’re at the top of your game. Thank you for following up No Deliverance with the deliverance of a stone cold classic.
And the album title to end all album titles. Says it all.
Rating: 5 out of 5