It is inevitable. When bands break up and members go their separate ways comparisons will be made.
This happened to John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr after the break up of The Beatles. Mick Jagger saw his stature diminish and Keith Richards saw his increase after they each released solo albums. There are some fans that think none of these musical icons made music as interesting on their own as they did with their arguably more famous bands.
It was tempting to read things into the breakup of Toad the Wet Sprocket. Lead singer Glen Phillips embarked on a solo career while guitarist Todd Nichols and bassist Dean Dinning formed a band of their own (Lapdog) and were eventually joined by drummer Randy Guss (Dinning subsequently left the band). It was difficult not to see a Scott Stapp – Creed - Alter Bridge scenario at work (albeit a more talented incarnation).
Lapdog’s “Near Tonight” sounded a lot like Toad with a little more guitar with a little less lyrical development while Phillips’ record could at times be a bitter pill to swallow. Nichols took the sound while Phillips took the voice. “Abulum” is an excellent record but listening to it could become a chore, as the darkness was at times oppressive. Phillips made attempts at humor and lighter fare but these songs were weighted down by the seriousness of the production and were outweighed by the darker-themed songs. He toured extensively to promote the disc while Nichols kept Lapdog at home. Lapdog released its second CD (“Mayfly”); Phillips released a live album and participated in some other side projects. Toad reunited and broke up again. Phillips has returned with a new solo album, “Winter Pays for Summer” to be released by the Lost Highway label as Lapdog begins work on album three.
“Winter Pays for Summer” takes many of the good elements of “Abulum” and improves upon them. The subjects remain somber but they have been sweetened with more ornate instrumentation and glossier production. “Abulum” sounded at times like a collection of well rehearsed, polished demos while “Winter Pays for Summer” sounds alive. “Abulum” had a singer/songwriter feel while “Winter…” sounds like a rock record created by a full band.
Phillips might have written his best song since the stunning “Windmills” (from Toad’s “Dulcinea”). He does an amazing thing with the lyrics for “Duck and Cover” (a line from which the album takes its name) taking big, universal truths and expressing them without sounding obvious or vapid. Phillips couples these lyrics with a wonderful melody and the song is the highlight of this album and his career. The other crowning achievement of the album comes quickly with the first single and second track on the album “Thankful.” This might be Phillip’s most ambitious track with syncopated vocals and swirling guitars and it bursts with more energy than any song he has ever recorded. It is a stark contrast to the solo acoustic version released on “Live at Largo.”