It’s such a relief to hear Todd Lewis’s voice again and know that the Toadies didn’t forget to record a new album.
It took Lewis, bassist Lisa Umbarger, drummer Mark Reznicek and guitarist Clark Vogeler, who replaced original guitarist Darrel Herbert, seven years to make a comeback from the exceptional 1994 album Rubberneck, which for hardcore fans is just too long to wait. Luckily for us, the delay was almost worth it, and the new album Hell Below/Stars Above picks up where the previous left off.
Lewis and Umbarger created the Toadies in 1989 in Dallas, Texas, and quickly became established on the local music scene. Between 1989 and 1993, the band released the album Velvet and became the first act to sign with the Grass indie-label, on which they released Pleather and the vinyl song “Mr. Love.” Rubberneck was then released on the Interscope Record label, as was Hell Below/Stars Above, and extensive touring kept the group from going into the studio, until now.
As the chief songwriter for the hard-rocking, religiously-overtoned and illuminating songs “Possum Kingdom” and the ass-kicking “I Come From the Water,” Lewis always sounds as if he’s on the brink of self-destruction or bordering on a psychotic breakdown. His voice and glorious scream are unmistakable. And, as the group’s dynamic frontman, it is Lewis who is the man with the Toadies’ plan.
“Todd’s the visionary,” bassist Lisa Umbarger said in the band’s biography. “From the beginning, before I even had a bass, Todd always had a clear idea of where we were going.”
From the thundering eruptions of bitterness and angst of “Plane Crash” and “Sweetness” to the breathy, burning interludes of “Pressed Against the Sky,” the latest songs are the same heavy rock, alternative/grunge music that brought the band marginal fame years ago.
“With Rubberneck we went out of our way to record as close to live as possible, with minimal overdubs and minimal studio trickery,” Lewis said. “With this one, we were open to having more harmonies and overdubs to make it a little more lush and produced, without sacrificing the immediacy of the live thing.”
For people who complain that the Toadies sound a little too much like the Pixies,
No matter what, the Toadies is a band to be reckoned with in the future, especially if it begins releasing CDs on a consistent basis.
“More than ever, I feel like, if people just get a chance to hear us, the rest will take care of itself,” Lewis said.
The Toadies, who played a concert outside the Sunshine Theatre the summer of 1996 with Supersuckers and Butthole Surfers, are not scheduled to visit Albuquerque on the current “Toadies Milking Texas” tour. But, at least Hell Below/Stars Above was released March 6 and is currently available at record stores.
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