Thursday, March 13, 2008
It just dawned on me last week that as much as I love the Toadies, there was research I had to do. I knew they had problems with their label in between releasing their two albums, which was to blame for the six year wait. I never really bothered to look into what those problems were however. That is, until last week. I began a temp job at Interscope Records, the former home of the Toadies, and the very label they had so many problems with. I've read in interviews that they decided to break up shortly after releasing "Hell Below/Stars Above," largely because of label woes and all that came with being signed to one of the majors. While I do enjoy working here, even if it is only for a month, I am not proud that they ran one of my favorite bands out of the business.
Things soured between the band and the label over what was to be their sophomore album. In 1997, Toadies recording "Rubberneck's," follow-up effort, "Feeler." An album that is pretty much complete, except for maybe some more mixing and production features, was given to the label for release. The label however did not like the direction the Toadies had gone, and wanted them to repeat the formula from the platinum debut's success. The label told the band they would not release this album, and that they would have to scrap the majority of songs and start from scratch. To this day, the album has never been released by any means, with Interscope claiming to have lost the masters of the recordings, preventing an independent release.
Until last week, I had never heard any mention of "Feeler," but you better believe once I did it became priority #1 for me to somehow obtain a copy. It took about 5 days, but I finally found the unreleased album. While I'm not sure if the tracklisting is in the correct order, or if there was ever one set, the album still sounds phenomenal! If I were not the huge Toadies fan that I am, I could somewhat understand the labels refusal. The album is a complete departure from "Rubberneck," and everything else the Toadies have ever released for that matter. Gone are any hints at heaviness, and their grunge meets Pixies sound has lost the majority of grunge to it. This could be result of the mix, or lack of equalization on the tracks, it's hard to say. The vocals are more forward in the mix then the typical Toadies recording, as its main counterpart, the screeching sonic stew of the guitars is tamed and pushed back in the mix. That's not to say the guitar playing is not up to their caliber, as it always is, but the sound of them is just far less crushing and dense as the Toadies we've come to know and love. Not being able to tear and break-through the rest of the music, I think this is probably due in most part to the mixing. The drums are not recorded in the quality you would expect either, as this was most likely not the final setting for the levels. Regardless, this does allow the bass lines and vocals to shine at all times throughout the record. Just in case you needed any more convincing that Todd Lewis has a great voice and delivery, his melodies soar all over the place on this disc.
The mix isn't the only change here though, as this album comes almost completely clean from the darkness. The majority of the tracks that did not get re-worked for the next album have a happy, upbeat, southern feel to them. This can be heard right away from the first track, "City of Hate." With its country twang feel to it, you can already tell this album is going to be far different, but that won't be a bad thing. This is one of those feel good out in the hot summer sun kind of tracks that you may expect an alternative rock band from Texas to create. "Pink," is another upbeat track with an almost minimalist approach in its sound. The heavy distortion and overdrive of the first album is gone, and left in its wake is a happy-go-lucky rock song that could have just as easily come from the 60s. Expanding on that very idea comes "Twitch," which you could very possibly dance to. While the idea of a danceable Toadies track sounds pretty strange, it actually works. With a strong groove and boogie down feel to it, the song talks of "the good days." I guess Interscope just couldn't bring themselves to release an album from a "grunge" band that was...happy. "Tornado," which was actually written in 1959 by bassist Lisa's father's band, The Jiants, sounds like the era it was written. Toadies are delivering nothing more than straight forward rock n roll, in the truest sense of the words.
"Mine," is another interesting track with a great heavy bass sound, and a quiet guitar lick that bounces right along with it. This is a fairly good assessment of what the Toadies may sound like as an indie pop group. With strong intertwining melodies, it comes across great. Some of the tracks almost seem reminiscent of indie revolutionaries Pavement, while still having the distinct Toadies aura in great presence. "Your Day," comes complete with bubbling harmonics and a vocal melody that could be used as theme music for a cartoon show or buddy sitcom. I can't help but feel however that if some heavy overdrive was added to the guitar it would have a completely different vibe. "Waterfall," is a great track that they are known to play regularly live. This song appeals to the grunge they're known for, and does not feel stale or dissappointing. "Joey, Let's Go," is another Pixies styled indie influenced track. The sonic siren sound of Toadies guitar playing is present, but is firmly seated in the back of the mix. "Send you to Heaven," is the closest thing to a country, soul, 70s pop-rock infusion as the Toadies are going to approach. With classic rock n roll not only inspiring the sound, but the lyrics as well, this song is a beautiful and stripped down ballad. That is till the end of the track, when all hell breaks loose with a rarely seen (on this album) aggression.
There are certainly tracks that are similar to what you would be expecting this release to sound like. "Dead Boy Boogie," "Suck Magic," and "Clarksville," are still filled with the angst and anger of their debut. A full produced version of these tracks would easily fit in with anything from "Rubberneck." "Little Fish," is a dark sounding moody ride similar to the style of "Jigsaw Girl" or "Doll Skin." "ATF" is an instrumental track that has become a live fan favorite. Intense and abrasive, this song comes across as a very familiar sounding Toadies grimy grunge jam.
While this album sounds more like demo quality production than a studio release, that only adds to its appeal. A stripped down Toadies sound where the songwriting and melodies get a chance to shine just as much as any other aspect. This album proves that the Toadies were set to release another classic album, rocking from start to finish with great tracks, and no filler. It is a shame this never came out, as it would have been one of the most unique sounding albums of the era. This is the greatest album ever to not be released, and I can only hope these songs get a proper release at some point in the future.
I don't want to post the entire album, as I don't think it's fair to the Toadies just in case they may be planning on releasing this in the future. However, I do want everyone to be able to hear this amazing album, as the odds aren't good it will ever come out in stores, and it's extremely hard to find online. So if you already own all of their official albums, and feel like you would do just about anything to hear an entire unreleased Toadies CD with songs that are brand new to your ears, then I understand. This is an album that all Toadies devotees should have the opportunity to hear.
DOWNLOAD HERE: Toadies - Feeler (1997)
password - Rishloo
ENJOY AND LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK!
Posted by Dan Goldin at 5:22 PM