Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Sound Familiar?
“Possum Kingdom”

Who Are They?
Post-grungers from Texas responsible for that one song you like to play on Guitar Hero II.

In a world after the death of Kurt Cobain, we were introduced to a new phenomenon called post-grunge. Okay, so it was less of a phenomenon and more of a blatant rip-off of Nirvana. But it was huge.

Band who get lumped into this category tend to be modern rock radio favorites like Candlebox, Collective Soul and Stone Temple Pilots (and don’t give me the whole “STP was totally a grunge band” argument. You’re wrong).

And then there were the Toadies.

Formed in 1989 in Fort Worth, Texas, these guys established themselves as, well, pretty odd. According to singer/guitarist Vaden Todd Lewis, “There’s a certain uneasiness to the Toadies.” In other words, this band is twisted in the most delicious of ways.

After recording and self-releasing an EP called Pleather in 1992, the Toadies signed to Interscope Records and dropped a strange little album called Rubberneck in 1994. The record’s most successful single, “Possum Kingdom,” helped Rubberneck achieve platinum status. Other singles that you may remember hearing on the radio for a hot second included “Tyler” and “Away.”

(Side note: I do not consider the Toadies a one-hit-wonder because “Away” actually made in on to the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks list. Plus they’re just too good to be a one-hit-wonder.)

But when the band sent what they thought would be their sophomore album to the label bigwigs in 1997, it was immediately dismissed and the Toadies were forced to start from scratch. As a result, Hell Below/Stars Above wasn’t released until 2001. The album was a flop and the Toadies broke up five months after its release. (Fun fact: Elliott Smith played backup piano on the album’s title track.)

Where Are They Now?
Reunited and just as strange as ever.

“Possum Kingdom” remained a rock radio staple well after the band’s break-up. Because of this, the Toadies maintained a devoted fan base that begged for a reunion.

Eventually, Todd Lewis and crew regrouped for a St. Patrick’s Day show in 2006 and a mini tour in 2007. After a short hiatus, Todd began writing again and the Toadies released No Deliverance in 2008.

Like most reunited ‘90s bands, the Toadies became festival circuit regulars, playing Lollapalooza in 2008 and the Austin City Limits Festival in 2009.

In 2010, the band’s shelved sophomore album, Feeler, finally saw a release (even though it had been floating around the Internet for years).

But Why the Toadies?
They just released their latest album Play.Rock.Music, which means a new tour and a very happy Sam.

What Does Sam Think?
If you couldn’t already tell, I love the Toadies. I do have a strange fascination with post-grunge bands, probably due to the fact that I lived and breathed mainstream rock radio back in the day. I still have a soft spot for what is known as “butt rock.” DON’T JUDGE ME.

Anyway, remember that quote from Vaden Todd Lewis about how strange the Toadies are? He wasn’t kidding. This band is peculiar in all the right ways.

First, let’s analyze the appeal of “Possum Kingdom.” The guitars have a murky, grungy quality that kind of makes you want to take a nice, long shower. And that riff at the end of the first verse? I said goddamn. It’s delicious.

The lyrics are honestly the icing on the cake.

I’m not gonna lie
I’ll not be a gentleman
Behind the boathouse
I’ll show you my dark secret

Rumor has it that this tune is an ode to your friendly neighborhood bloodsucker. So this is a rock song about vampires. What’s not to like?

Though the Toadies are a post-grunge/mainstream rock band, they don’t fall into the trap of the Creeds and Nickelbacks of the world. That is, their sound doesn’t cater to the needs of balding, middle-aged men and their cougar wives. The Toadies are the outsiders of modern rock. They mix that “bigger-in-Texas” sound with the dirtiest of grunge influences.

In other words, it’s dive bar music. Grab a flannel shirt, some cowboy boots and a shot of whiskey because things are gonna get rough.

I had the pleasure of seeing these guys live back in 2008 and they sounded great. They don’t ride the nostalgia train like most bands their age. For example, when I saw Marcy Playground over the summer, they played up the whole ‘90s novelty thing by continuously reminding the audience, “Hey! We’re that obscure band from the ‘90s who had that one hit you all like so much!” (That hit was “Sex and Candy,” by the way.)

Toadies don’t do that. They have a pretty dedicated fan base (myself included) and don’t rely on the appeal of that one really huge hit to appease on audience.

Their newest album sounds like classic Toadies and that’s just perfect. If you’re only familiar with “Possum Kingdom” (and you really dig it), check out the rest of their catalogue, especially Rubberneck.

Or you can just rock out to “Possum Kingdom” until you die.

-- Sam Boyer, reporting from the ‘90s.

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