I just stumbled across an old news story about Toad the Wet Sprocket reuniting for a brief tour last February. I don’t remember hearing anything about it. There was a brief period in the early-’90s when Santa Barbara’s Toad was on top of the world – how soon they forget.
Though classified an “alternative” band (often a catchall category of last resort), Toad was really a ’90s update of the folk/country rock of the Byrds or the Eagles (Glen Phillip’s vocals recall Glenn Frey). Gavin MacKillop’s full, bold production finds this connection by dispensing with the undertone of self-conscious irony that typifies “alternative” music. Perhaps this absence is the true alternative.
Regardless, Fear made the band ubiquitous on rock, light rock and adult radio with such staples as “Walk On the Ocean,” “All I Want,” and “I Will Not Take These Things For Granted,” and the album stands like a rock.
The band’s next album, Dulcinea, was something of a reaction against the lushness of Fear. “After a year of touring, Toad was looking for a much more live-sounding record. They wanted to minimize the overdubs and to make sure that every part was essential to the song. On Fear they were experimenting with organs and string quartets and such, but on Dulcinea it was getting back to the core of the four piece band,” MacKillop said.
The result is a cleaner, tighter, but not necessarily better, record. Though blessed with excellent songs: “Fly From Heaven,” “Something’s Always Wrong” and especially “Fall Down,” the album doesn’t hang together quite as well as Fear.
I haven’t heard anything about Toad’s plans for the future – I am not a fan of Glen Phillips’ solo work thus far.