Indie Review: Toadies – Play.Rock.Music.
Toadies – Play.Rock.Music. – Kirtland Records
Remember Toadies? Ya know, they had that song “Possum Kingdom,” and it was a big hit on Modern Rock radio back in 1995? You couldn’t avoid it, and it had all the benchmarks of a radio smash; a catchy chorus, airtight production, and mysterious lyrics that, from the outside, seemed like some variety of love song. Of course, it was much darker than that, alluding to vampirism over a decade before the Twilight Saga would create a money-printing business for all things blood-sucking. It would be their last taste of Billboard success, however, and it wasn’t long before Toadies were a distant memory to the mainstream set. Their next album was blocked from release by their label, Interscope, and in 2001, they disbanded; another piece of rubbish in the one-hit grunge bin.
Late in the decade, however, they reemerged on the small Dallas label, Kirtland Records, and have made something of a miraculous comeback, and Play.Rock.Music. is the latest in a recent surge of releases. If your only knowledge of these guys comes from the song “Possum Kingdom,” then your expectations are sure to be dashed the minute you press “Play.” The songs on Play.Rock.Music. are much heavier than their previous hit. Much of this, of course, has to do with the more advanced recording technology of the modern age, but it’s clear that, with this set of tunes, Toadies is gunning for radio play. The airy, lightweight sound of “Possum Kingdom” is replaced by a compressed rock feel, but that’s not the only thing that’s different.
Album opener “Rattler’s Revival” sets the tone really well for the rest of the record, with it’s chugging guitar surge and sing-speaking vocals. It’s also on this first track that many of the problems of this record become apparent. The aforementioned “sing-speaking” doesn’t do much to disguise the fact that the lyrics hold no real significance. This wouldn’t be as much of a problem if the music could pick up the slack, but the tune is utterly hookless, which is unfortunately a problem throughout the album.
That’s not say that all the tracks sound the same. Though the tunes are often stagnant, they are at least varied. “Summer of the Strange” has a bit of slinky beat with more traditional-sounding vocals, while “Magic Bullet” rollicks around with a staccato feel. Neither track really grabbed me, however, and this is due to the sub-intelligent lyrics of Vaden Todd Lewis. Granted, “Animals” is supposed to be a big, dumb song about sex, but that doesn’t prevent it from being infuriatingly grating and wholly unoriginal. Using animals with primitive urges as a metaphor for lust has already been done by The Bloodhound Gang and Nickelback, to name two examples, and that’s not exactly great company to find yourself in.
The only song with real redeeming values is “Laments of a Good Man,” which is able to successfully change tempos and create a real narrative with it’s sing-speaking vocals. Though the chorus is a bit of a misstep, this track can be seen as the pinnacle for which all the other tracks on the record should reach for. It manages to stand out for actually experimenting with song structure.
And that’s the main failing of Play.Rock.Music. It wants to be that fun, hard-rock record that you put on at parties and thrash to, but there is an utter hook deficiency. Most of the tracks are forgotten as soon as they’re over, and no elements of the songs, lyrical or musical, are able to distinguish themselves in any way. The thick, compressed sound mix only adds to this problem, and, in fact, may exacerbate it. Still, if you’re curious as to the whereabouts of Toadies, picking up this release should satisfy those urges.
Check out the album’s lead single, “Summer of the Strange,” by clicking the link:
WBGU-FM Music Director