Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Toadies - No Deliverance

Full disclosure: This was written for the Free Times (Columbia SC) as a preview for their recent appearance at Headliners. This is the unedited version. The edit can be found here

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Time can be cruel to a band. Take the Toadies for example.

Neither esoteric enough for indie rockers nor thrash-worthy of metal adulation, the Dallas quartet are something of a post-grunge anomaly, like the Pixies meeting Metallica in Texas.

Rising to prominence on the strength of “Possum Kingdom,” the lead single from 1994’s Rubberneck, their snarling, Southern-tinged folk tales strangely resonated with listeners during the Hootie heyday and propelled the album to platinum status.

But despite the momentum produced mainly by that massive, memetic song, they have largely fallen into irrelevancy, their records proliferating used bins beside contemporaries such as Toad the Wet Sprocket.

Embroiled in label interference, their 2001 sophomore effort Hell Below/Stars Above, almost didn’t see the light of day. When bassist Lisa Umbarger left shortly thereafter, they disbanded, their legacy only a small touchstone in the annals of modern rock.

Flash forward a few years. After a stint with Burden Brothers, lead singer Vaden Todd Lewis decided it was time to again test the water. Bolstered by a string of successful shows for their core Texas constituency, (And perhaps the appearance of “Possum Kingdom” on Guitar Hero 2) they officially re-banded. And tepidity be damned, they contracted a new bassist and embarked upon that atavistic ritual known as the reunion tour.

Now on the road in support of their recent Kirtland Records release, No Deliverance, Toadies are touring some of the same clubs in which they cut their teeth, albeit a bit older and wiser.

But don’t let the graying hair or the back-to-basics approach confuse you. They belie nothing of the bare-knuckled, disconcerting tour de force that is still the Toadies. At its core, No Deliverance feels as if the band never went away, offering ten stark aural attacks that amp up the psychotic stomp of their previous releases. If nothing else, it serves as a good primer to their iconic riff carnage and a fitting bookend for a band often maligned as a one-hit wonder.

Some like to say that time heals all. As far as the Toadies are concerned, much like their mid-90’s brethren The Meat Puppets sang, some things will never change.

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