Toadies’ debut Rubberneck was loose, frenetic hard rock balanced by Todd Lewis’ seemingly innate pop sensibility and a splash of humor. What made it exciting is the rarity of music this catchy that sounds as if it could derail at any moment. Sounding like the unholy lovechild of Pixies and Nirvana, you would expect no less.
Despite 18 years, label issues, personnel changes, and a disbandment, their occasional releases have generally done an admirable job of maintaining this balance. New album PLAY.ROCK.MUSIC contains these same polar elements, but the balance is no longer the same. Rather than blending these strengths, there are some frenetic songs and some gentler poppy songs. Unfortunately, a couple songs too many are neither, sounding like generic post-grunge. Even those lesser tracks have their moments, but all too often, these moments are all too brief.
Given this, it is not surprising that the songs at each pole are most compelling. "Magic Bullet" still rocks, but it slinks along behind Lewis’ narrative like we haven’t heard from them before. "Laments of a Good Man" is as wild and disjointed as Toadies have ever sounded, the verses sounding like a demented carnival complete with a sinister highly processed choral section, and the choruses grinding to a Sabbath-like sludge. You could sometimes hear a vague Southern tinge in their previous work, but "We Burned the City Down" is a full-on Texas stomper. Next is album-closer "The Appeal", crossing as far into ballad territory as they have ever gone.
Even though the elements that made Toadies great have unwound from each other, they are still used separately to great effect. The moments that utilize these old strengths manage to showcase the most growth too. Let’s hope we see more growth in the future and less middling hard rock.
MP3 Stream: "We Burned the City Down"