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