Two Jerks Revisit Alt Rock's Nicest Band, Toad the Wet Sprocket

Categories: Nostalgia

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If I told you a mostly forgotten band from the 90s, one that was already kind of a walking punchline during their heyday in the first place, had come back after 16 years with a Kickstarter to fund a new album, your initial instinct would be derision, right? But for some reason the news of the Toad the Wet Sprocket effort, for which they've raised almost $200k so far, well beyond their set goal, has somehow paralyzed my cruelty instincts. I find it kind of, well, nice. It's just really nice that they're doing that. Maybe it's because that's probably the best way to describe the band's music, just, sort of, nice music, made by, and for, nice people. It kind of makes me feel like I'm losing my edge. To test whether or not I had, I asked my Voice colleague David Thorpe to hash out all of these weird emotions here. I had sort of assumed he'd be willing to take the role of the heel in this back and forth, since jokes about eminently mockable bands is right in his wheelhouse, but it turns out he shared my good-tidings for the oft-derided band.

See also: Bands Abusing Kickstarter Are Exploiting Fans

David, when I noticed a show listing yesterday, (for a band TtWS are often confused with): "Vaden Todd Lewis (of the Toadies) perf Toadies & Burden Brothers tunes," I thought that was one of the saddest things I've seen in a long time. That detail there, that they have to cram into the headline that, yes, yes, he's playing Toadies songs, it's OK, you can come hear "Possum Kingdom," is kind of heartbreaking, right? Why is it different for Toad the Wet Sprocket, do you think? Or is it?


DT: I'm sure if Toad the Wet Sprocket had just been advertising a show by Todd Wetsprocket (of Toad the Wet Sprocket) (Featuring the songs of Toad the Wet Sprocket), we wouldn't be talking about a 360%-funded Kickstarter, we'd be talking a slightly underfunded county fair. The big difference here is that this is the Toad boys are back in full force. We're talking original lineup, man. Actually, I have no idea whether this is the original lineup, but they could tell me it was and I'd believe them, because who gives a shit?

But yes, my cockles are a little warmed by the big crowdfunding success of this Toad record, probably because I only remember them for their vaguely pleasant music and their ridiculous name. (Trivia: most people think Toad the Wet Sprocket is a terrible name, but it's actually a Monty Python reference, making it a nerdy and terrible name.) Maybe I'm just pleasantly shocked to see their name pop up again, since I figured they died along with all the other '90s AOR power-pop bands in the Dishwallocaust.


LO: Haha, OK, I knew I could rely on you to belittle these hardworking and beloved, harmless musicians. What's strange to me is that we haven't seen an uptick in Toad the Wet Sprocket nostalgia among twenty-somethings, who are desperate for any excuse to latch their personal brands onto the most misremembered decade since people my age did the exact same thing with the '80s. The Gin Blossoms, strangely, have turned up more than a few times as references for a bunch of the young bands I've covered lately, and there really isn't that much of a musical, or aesthetic gap between those two titans of '90s mixtape-wave. TtWS weren't much of a lateral move from R.E.M. at the time either, as I recall. Is it specifically because of the name? Is the name that bad that it can reverberate onward through the decades, butterfly-effect like? Like if you named your son Blake, say. I wonder how the course of human history would've been different if four guys had been slightly less dorky 25 years ago.

As for the actual music, I think it, strangely, still holds up. Think about "Something's Always Wrong." (By the way, I think it's a poignant bit of irony that they're lampooning the idea of a band as an infomercial product there, when that's essentially what the Kickstarter experience is now, right? By the way part 2, kind of dying at the bare-footed bass player. That is probably the most 90s thing I've ever seen, and I saw Funkdoobiest open for Rage Against the Machine and Cypress Hill at an amusement park).

That's just one of a slew of singles from them that were pretty great. "Come Back Down", "Walk On the Ocean", "Fall Down." I even thought "Coil", their last, 1997 album, was really listenable in a sort of melancholy closing-time-for-the-decade sort of way.

Did you listen to the new single?


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10 comments
tattooedsnakelady
tattooedsnakelady

"Glen Phillips: I don’t consider myself a seeker. I think the mystery is the point — it’s not about figuring everything out or finding the answers, it’s about respecting the human experience. I’m very skeptical of religions as belief systems, but I’m also very drawn to them as languages for discussing subjects which more literal languages fail to satisfactorily address. The experience of ecstasy or spiritual union is a neurological fact, and as narrative-oriented creatures we like to make up stories to explain those feelings. I think those stories can teach us a lot."  http://www.owlandbear.com/2013/03/05/interview-toad-the-wet-sprocket/


"Glen Phillips: I think not the popularity, but there is a spiritual bent to a lot of the lyrics. I’m not a Christian, but I’m pretty intensely moral, and think a lot about similar subjects, and that’s the territory of all religions 

  
Christian bands who manage to be Christian by faith and not directly by lyric where you can write songs about your place in the world--Switchfoot is a great example. You could be Jewish, Muslim, agnostic, anything, if you’re thinking about your life and how you want to be compassionate, giving, moral, good in the face of what’s around you. That’s universal stuff. Often, many who are religious are thinking along those lines very actively. But, they have a working vocabulary for it through their religion--their religion informs that search and so(sighs)."  http://www.tollbooth.org/2004/features/gphillips.html

tattooedsnakelady
tattooedsnakelady

No, Toad isn't Christian.  I think it's funny that every time Toad is mentioned, the songs that are tied to them are not my favorites... the songs that are mentioned are the commercialized radio play ones.  My favorites that I think define the band are:  "Pray Your Gods", "Nightingale Song", "Whatever I fear", "Dam Would Break", etc...  

trainwreck
trainwreck

Not Christian - lead singer and writer, Glen Phillips is Jewish. But they are nice...which is more than I can say for some Christians ;)

wysoft
wysoft

I've been a huge fan of Toad the Wet Sprocket, ever since my hot 26 year-old high-school english teacher walked into class virtually sobbing one day in 1998, and proclaimed to the whole class that her favorite band broke up. Being the stalkery nerd that I was, I looked them up on the web, and even found a few CD samples on the pre-MP3 web, and I liked what I heard. yeah, the guys from Toad the Wet Sprocket are "nice". I guess that sort of adds to their long-term listenability: the 90s was littered with bands and frontmen that ultimately soured their fans and long-term prospects with their behavior or crap attitudes. Meanwhile, even Toad's eventual breakup was amicable and polite between the band-members, who had been touring together for over ten years and just needed to do some new things. Glen Phillips, the band's lead, even had a pretty successful solo career for a while, though ultimately it seemed that a lot of the band's fans really wanted to see them back together again. We're glad to have the band back - they have an awesome catalog of tunes that never get old, and always had good songwriting and musical chemistry. Last but not least, many of us find ourselves longing for that "nice" genre of soft-alt that was popular in the early 1990s - arguably just a better all-around time of life in general. Call it musical comfort food for Gen-X/Y if you will, but we want it, and Toad is hear to deliver.

nostalgictimeman
nostalgictimeman

I'd really like to know what these folks listen to... :D Yes, I am a Toad fan, and I feel no shame in being as such because it is my firm belief that their music is quality.

maxkath21
maxkath21

They have always been my favorite band. As silly as that sounds their music has just moved me from a very young age. Yes, some of their songs have Christian undertones, but it's not nearly all. Hell, it's not even most. What you have with this band is four very talented musicians (who I got to see in concert last year and meet), who have not lost any ability in their older ages. I've never understood why this band has been so derided throughout their career. Yes the name is cheesy, but that hasn't stopped other bands from becoming popular, and in some cases loved. All in all this is a great assessment of the band, so thanks!

mbbranham
mbbranham

I have been listening to Toad the Wet Sproket's for decades. So often I tire of a band, but they are so talented. Their music never gets old.  


studiesincrap
studiesincrap topcommenter

No joke: In Kansas City in 1995 or thereabouts, I drove three friends to a Toad the Wet Sprocket concert. Afterwards, my car wouldn't start, and as we waited around for someone to pick us up members of the band spotted us, asked if we were okay, and then *brought us Cokes.*

lukeoneil47
lukeoneil47

@studiesincrap I've *brought coke* to a few bands in my day if you know what I mean (illegal narcotics). 

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