Toadies – Play.Rock.Music.

2012 Kirtland Records2012 Kirtland Records

“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


Weekend Jam from Texas rockers Toadies…Turn This Up To 11. Seriously…

Once upon a time (the mid 1990’s to be exact), a terminally cool band from Texas released one of the most unorthodox (and did I mention COOL?) rock CD’s I think I’ve ever heard with the hit that wouldn’t die, Possum Kingdom.

When they submitted their follow up disc to their label , Interscope, around 1997 it was rejected.

Yep.  And it never saw the light of day until a year or so ago.

For the life of me, after listening to the long-awaited release of that follow-up disc Feeler I don’t know what Interscope was thinking.  This was every bit as good as their debut disc Rubberneck, and I’ll never understand it being rejected.

Proudly unorthodox as all of Toadies discs are, it’s a joy to finally be able to crank these songs and bask in the glow of some great modern rock.  This song is my personal favorite from Feeler and is one of my 2 or 3 favorite songs they’ve ever done.

It just rocks relentlessly.  I love Toadies!  Love ’em, too, and enjoy Abysmally…


Toadies Feeler CD art

Toadies – No Deliverance

  2008 Kirtland Records

And here we have it.  The much-anticipated reunion of one of the most fiercely original and incessantly cool bands to ever walk the planet.  I can’t  believe I didn’t post this review months ago.

As you have ascertained from my other Toadies review, I just love this band.  They have their own sound and style…their thang.  And if you like their “thang” then you know you don’t have to hear their new CD before you buy it.  You know you can count on them to deliver the goods.   And deliver they do on (ironically) No Deliverance.

This is no mere reunion album.  This is merely a follow-up album that rightfully belongs right next to their other two stellar studio releases and reaffirms their greatness.   If you love Toadies already, you won’t be disappointed.  If you’re new to them, give the CD time to sink in.  Toadies are a band that are not always immediate in getting their hooks in you.  Much of their song structures take twists and turns and are unorthodox…which I just love.

“So Long Lovey Eyes” kicks things off in rave-up energetic fashion as they always do with passion and precision, positioning itself as the perfect hybrid of “Mister Love” from Rubberneck and “Plane Crash” from Hell Below/Stars Above.   Hooks just ooze their way into your conscience.   I swear one of the best memories I have of Toadies (besides seeing them open for Bush) is Boomer, the music director at WTGE-FM at the time, looking at me upon hearing “Possum Kingdom” off the Rubberneck album and saying “Moose, I kinda like it but where’s the HOOK?”  He wound up giving it a shot on our playlist and, well, it wound up becoming Toadies’ calling card.

That sums up Toadies to me.  There’s something not quite orthodox about their songwriting where hooks don’t quite sound like what we’re used to.  There’s more of a building process and, indeed, usually numerous hooks within the same song.   This is conducive to creating albums that you can just put on and let play.

“Nothing to Cry About” is another of my faves and if you’ve never heard Toadies before, this is more of an orthodox song structure with great groove and hooks.   “Song I Hate” continues their knack for taking a potentially sweet sounding song and injecting it with a little venom, while “I Am a Man of Stone” does a slow slam with the most towering of riffs while Todd Lewis sings every word with absolute conviction that’s off the charts.

“One More” is probably my second fave on this slab, with its slightly dissonant  riff weaving magic over the simple groove of the song, but really every song on here is strong.  The ones that don’t grab you right off the bat are the ones you will wake up humming to yourself tomorrow.   You just can’t go wrong here.

Oh yeah…and “I Want Your Love” leaves no doubt that Todd Lewis wants your love.  It’s a riot…and it was used in an episode of Sons of Anarchy.

Toadies win the day.


Rating:  4 out of 5

Weekly Abysmal Video 11/9/09

This week’s WAV is from Texas’ own Toadies!  I was fortunate enough to see them open for Bush back in the 90’s when they were touring the Rubberneck CD…the CD this tune comes from. Great band and I highly recommend any of their 3 studio CD’s.

I know, I know…there’s no video for this song, but it’s cool, it rocks and it’s Toadies. Enjoy Abysmally…




Toadies – Hell Below, Stars Above

   2001 Interscope

For starters, Toadies were just a very, very cool band.   Their 1994 debut, ‘Rubberneck’ was terminally cool and unlike anything else at the time.   The eternally humongous single from that album, “Possum Kingdom,” will forever stand as a classic.  Many people don’t know the song by name, but instantly recognize it when they hear it.   Much like a similarly huge song from the time, “Backwater” from Meat Puppets’ ‘Too High To Die’ CD, the song proved almost too huge to follow up and many people who bought ‘Rubberneck’ never gave the rest of the disc a fighting chance.

Because of this and the fact that Interscope Records refused to release the original intended follow up to ‘Rubberneck’ entitled ‘Feeler’ in 1998, this disc never stood a chance.  ‘Hell Below, Stars Above’ finally saw the light of day some 7 years after the debut, and by that time the alternative movement had turned more to Nu-Metal and Toadies sadly broke up a mere 5 months after the album’s release.

What we have here, then, is an undeniably original disc full of hooks, melody and relentless grooves all delivered with a decidedly non-commercial, enthusiastic almost-punk attitude.   I’ve always admired how Soundgarden can just turn beats around on a dime and make the most absurd time signature groovable.  Toadies just might be even a little better, as evidenced on songs here like “Little Sin” and the hair-raising opener of openers “Plane Crash.”

You can’t really go wrong here, this being one of those discs that sounds just as life-affirming after a thousand listens as it did the very first time.  “Push The Hand” (a song salvaged from the unreleased ‘Feeler’ sessions), “Motivational,” Pressed Against The Sky,” “Jigsaw Girl, “Sweetness,” the title track…I could just go on and name them all.  Even the more toned-down songs like “Pressed Against the Sky” crackle with an absurd realism emanating from lead vocalist Todd Lewis’ passionate pipes.

One of my favorite tracks, “What We Have We Steal” is a reworking of a ‘Feeler’ track called “Best of Three,” as well as being one of the few tracks that DON’T have an unorthodox song structure.  As great as this album is, I often wonder if the lost ‘Feeler’ tracks might be even better what with the record label refusing to release them…that usually means the label didn’t believe the tracks were commercial enough to sell, a laughable thought with regard to Toadies given the sincere, catchy non-commerciality of all their work.

Fiercely independent, fiercely original and fiercely hooky, you’ve just gotta hear this band. There have been rumours that Toadies have reformed and could be recording a new album in the near future as of this post.  We can only hope. 

Rating:  4.5 out of 5