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It's been 23 years since Toadies started playing rock music in Fort Worth, Texas; the road they've taken over that lengthy period of time has been anything but smooth.
Few bands have generated such a cult following as Toadies did with their debut record Rubberneck which included such notable tracks as "Possum Kingdom", "Tyler" and "Mister Love". Unfortunately for the band, success came at a price. As their follow-up album Feeler was rejected by Interscope Records, which ultimately delayed their next release Hell Below/Stars Above until 2001. Needless to say, this series of events took its toll on the band, who ultimately called it quits in 2002. Somewhere along the way a funny thing happened; Lewis and co. just stopped caring what the music industry had to say and realized that there was a loyal army of Toadies followers anxious for their return. Kirtland Records released new Toadies music with the album No Deliverance in 2008. On top of that the band finally had a proper release of Feeler, released in 2010. This past spring, the band, joined by Grammy-nominated producer Chris "Frenchie" Smith (Jet, Built to Spill, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead), entered an Austin recording studio with a clean slate and, for the first time in the run of the band, Lewis says, without any fully written tracks in tow.
With the band's second successful stint now having lasted almost as long as the initial run, Play.Rock.Music. showcases a band in full stride, an outfit with renewed vigor and, perhaps most important, a group with a clear and confident understanding of itself.
Toadies' long, slithering road to this fifth full-length may not have been pretty. But should it have been? Not at all.
Toadies don't make pretty music. They make music that crawls under, into and through your skin. They make music that makes neck hairs stand on end. They make music that begs to be blasted at full volume — with haunting lyrics that bear their battle scars proudly. Toadies do that masterfully on Play.Rock.Music. And, Lewis promises, they plan on doing that for many other records to come, too.
Surrounding the release, they've proudly showcased this new material this past summer – first, while on tour with fellow '90s stalwarts Helmet and, later, at their fifth annual Dia De Los Toadies event in New Braunfels, Texas, which took place on August 31 and September 1.
This, after all, is a band that's released just five studio LPs in 23 years. So you get the feeling that Lewis, Reznicek, Vogeler and Blair won't mind waiting a little longer before writing the remaining chapters in their ever-undulating story.
"The Toadies – my favorite band of all time. Todd Lewis' voice, I just love that it's sexy, dirty, drunk, broken. Anything about rock swagger, I learned from them." –Kelly Clarkson
"Vaden Todd Lewis simply scorches." –SPIN
The M.O.B. Agency
Sarah Jaffe started work on The Body Wins the day she bought a bass and a drum set at a pawnshop. That day, she wrote the rhythmic "A Sucker For Your Marketing," and her second full-length began to take shape. It had been building up inside her; she just didn't have an outlet. Jaffe had been writing songs on her acoustic guitar since she was a teenager. She knew everything she could do on it, and everything she couldn't do. It wasn't a creative tool for her anymore.
When Jaffe first started playing guitar, everything was a discovery. Every chord she played, she thought she had made it up. Not knowing how to play bass or drums, but forcing herself to try, brought that back to her. And so there was "A Sucker For Your Marketing," a song she may not have been able to write before, but needed to. Maybe not that song, exactly, but Jaffe had pent-up creative energy inside her, after spending most of the year traveling and touring behind her debut (Suburban Nature), seeing and feeling things, soaking up the world.
Plus, there was a side to Jaffe that didn't exist on Suburban Nature, the part of her that liked to dance and listen to hip-hop and cover Robyn songs live. That's not to say The Body Wins is a party record. It isn't. But it has a pulse to it, more than a heartbeat, not quite a breakbeat. "Glorified High," the first single, perfectly captures that, the energy she'd built up and the energy that had always been there, with a chorus that smacks you in the chest and lingers like a hug.
It would be nice to say that, after that first day of writing on bass and drums, everything fell into place quite easily. Maybe in the movie biopic version it would. But when Jaffe entered the studio with producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, The Walkmen), who had worked with her on Suburban Nature, she'd only completed a handful of songs, and bits and pieces of a few others. Congleton told her to send everything she had, "even the stuff you're embarrassed about." So she did.
"John is clearly a master at what he does," Jaffe says. "But, to me, his true genius is the fact that he knows when something is good, and knows when something can be great when you think it's absolute rubbish. I can imagine when you work with as many artists as John has worked with you inherently become a psychological handyman. He didn't baby me when I had my freakouts about not having enough songs. He simply said, go home and write. And I would. Or when Robert [Gomez] or Scott [Danbom] were laying down their instrumentals, I would go in the room next door and quickly finish a song, or write a part. Just being around all that creative energy, it was a thrilling pressure. And it worked well with me."
Going in, Jaffe also knew she wanted to work with her friend Fiona Brice, an orchestral arranger, composer, and violinist who tours with Placebo. Along with the playing of Jaffe's crack backing band (featuring members of Midlake and Centro-matic, among others), Brice's touch to Jaffe's songs adds a rich, lushness that makes every song sound huge, even the quieter ones. It permeates everything, like the sort of set decoration Wes Anderson uses, present even when it's not.
The Body Wins may sound different to those introduced to Jaffe through Suburban Nature. It should. But it's not by any grand design to change. It's where she's at now, a product of everywhere she's been since Suburban Nature—literally and figuratively—and a hint of everywhere she might go from here.
"Jaffe is blessed with both a trenchant lyrical pen and a vocal instrument perfectly suited to mainlining her effortlessly crafted, heartbroken tunes straight to the soul." –Paste Magazine
"Great songwriters bring together two things…the ability to relate to people's daily lives and the wisdom to express emotions in new and powerful ways…Sarah Jaffe passes both tests." –NPR
"One listen to 24-year-old Texas native Sarah Jaffe’s music and you’ll feel like you’ve known her for years….with lyrics so intimate you’ll feel like you’ve read her diary and a focus on her lovely, smoky voice (as if she’s whispering directly into your ear)." –Magnet
"A major new talent." –Austin Chronicle
"The whole album makes the sound of an emboldened singer in complete command. Jaffe has completed the transition from "musician" to "artist," and she wears it well." –Stephen Thompson, NPR First Listen
"Texas singer/songwriter Sarah Jaffe has done a lot of growing up since her debut album, Suburban Nature. She has experimented more musically... moving beyond straight-ahead guitar folk and into new jazz and electronic-inflected directions. The raspy and hauntingly beautiful vocals her fans value haven't gone anywhere—but everything surrounding them is bolder and richer than before." –Interview
"When former Toadies frontman Todd Lewis and former Reverend Horton Heat drummer Taz Bentley decided to merge their angst, neither could have imagined how quickly their new band would entrench itself in the musical consciousness of Dallas. Or maybe they did. By tapping into the recognizable, male-centered passion of Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Guns & Roses, Lewis knew that Dallas bands are not often known for subtlety or arty pretension. Buried in Your Black Heart, Burden Brothers' 2003 debut, was meat-and-potatoes rock with riffs hammered into your skull by sweat, volume and veteran dexterity. Mercy, the sophomore follow-up, showed the band expanding its range, however slightly, mixing in some somber reflections "Life Between" to go along with the expected snarl of "Shine" and "She's Not Home."
Live, Burden Brothers have created a buzz not heard around these parts since, well, the Toadies' halcyon days. When they play the line stretches seemingly to Fair Park and the shows become cathartic celebrations, linking fans of disparate ages in a communal sauna of familiarity and fury. The day after a Burden Brothers performance, once the hangover subsides, fans are never too far off claiming they've seen the best band in Dallas." –D.S.
The Burden Brothers released their debut cd, Buried in Your Black Heart in late 2003. The hit singles "Beautiful Night" and "Shadow" got tons of national radio airplay which, in part, led to tours with the likes of Velvet Revolver, Breaking Benjamin, Hinder, Papa Roach and Finger Eleven as well as an appearance at Lollapallooza.
The band's follow up Mercy was guided by Grammy-winning producer Joe Chiccarelli (the Shins, White Stripes, U2, Beck, Hole) and David Castell (Blue October, Edie Brickell.) It included the singles "Everybody is Easy" and "Shine."
"Tough driving metal and head-bobbing arena rock " –MTV
"Fear-not this is hard rock at it's purest, laced with ripping riffage and Queen-like presence." –Download.com