Wednesday, April 21, 2010

1990’s Favorite: The Toadies “Rubberneck” Album




Well, I guess this one counts as an oldie. The Toadies released the “Rubberneck” album in 1994, but it is still one of my all-time favorite albums. What was I doing in 1994? Home improvement projects, most likely…

Anyway, there was one popular hit from this album, “Possum Kingdom”, which hit #9 on the Billboard charts. Other than that, “Rubberneck” fell off the radar quickly. The album topped out at #56 on the Billboard 200. That is a shame, because this is one of the few albums of the last 20 years that is entirely made up of REALLY good songs. If you go to iTunes and buy only “Possum Kingdom”, you will miss out on a lot. Go ahead and spring for the whole album.

All of the songs are quite different from each other, as if they did not feel the need to make the songs flow seamlessly from one to another. It is kind of like the “Pulp Fiction” of rock albums. There is an instrumental, a ballad or two, and lots of hard-driving countrified rock.

Beside the tremendous variety of musical styles, the lyrics cover a panoply of issues, from sex to religion to the occult and even some incest (and other kinds of relationships) for good measure.
The songs include:

”Mexican Hairless” (instrumental)
“Mister Love”
“Backslider”
“Possum Kingdom” (the name of a lake and state park outside of Dallas)
“Quitter”
“Away”
“I Come from the Water”
“Tyler” (my favorite)
“Happy Face”
“Velvet”
“I Burn” (man oh man, does this song build)

To me, the heart of this band is Todd Lewis (vocals and guitar), who got most of the songwriting credit. He provided a unique voice, clever lyrics and a few of the nicely layered guitars of their harder-driving songs. Also on the album were Lisa Umbarger (bass), Mark Reznicek (drums), and Darrel Herbert (guitar).

I would be remiss if I did not offer my opinion that the reason that this album is so close to perfect is because it was mixed by Grammy Award-winning Andy Wallace. He has been around a long time, and was instrumental in putting together Nirvana’s albums. He has also worked as producer/engineer/mixer with The Cult, Slayer, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, White Zombie, Faith No More, Rollins Band, Rush, Alice Cooper, Rage Against the Machine, Foo Fighters, System of a Down, A Perfect Circle, and Paul McCartney, to name a few.

In checking around on Al Gore’s bitchen internet, I found that this Texas-based band did have some personnel changes, and did eventually break up. Their follow-up album “Feeler” was badly torpedoed by Interscope, and did not have the same level of success as “Rubberneck”.

Fortunately, The Toadies re-united, released another album in 2008, and will complete another this year. They still do some gigs, most notably the annual “Dia de los Toadies” which is held in August each year. This year it will be in New Braunfels, Texas (Near San Antonio). I need to figure out some sort of work trip for late August this year, apparently.

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