Friday, October 10, 2008

FDF Volume 2 Issue 112: Toad the Wet Sprocket - Bread and Circus

By: March

Album - Bread and Circus
Artist - Toad the Wet Sprocket
Key Players - Todd Nichols- guitar, Randy Guss - drums, Dean Dinning - bass and backing vocals, Glen Phillips - lead vocals and guitar.
Produced By - Toad the Wet Sprocket and Brad Nack

Release Date - July 1989

What caused me to blow off the dust? - This just fits the bill for the overall idea of this blog. When I look at my cd collection each week trying to come up with ideas of what to revisit not only do I look for something that I haven't listened to in ages, but something readers might actually have heard of, at least in name, at one time. Not sure what that says about my choice in music but there are a fair number of cds that when I look at them I SWEAR I am the only person in the world that owns (or still has) said cds (Nudeswirl or Flowerhead come to mind..both are perfect candidates..but this blog has low enough readers as it is) So, I figured some of you readers will know the name "Toad the Wet Sprocket" so here we go.....

Overview - Blending rock and folk California band Toad the Wet Sprocket broke, albeit slowly, on to the scene in 1989 Formed of four high school students at the time the band pulled together the $650 dollars to record the debut. The band drew its name from a Monty Python sketch. Columbia records would sign the band and re-issue this record. The band would lay the ground work for their sound on this record and have the future records continue to sell better than the ones released prior. The band would split (for the first time) in 1998.

FDF Comments (aka the songs)
- The album opens with the chime of acoustic guitars on "Way Away". The drums compliment nicely as they come in rather light before the bass really comes up nice. The harmonies are strong, and this is a nice sample of the feel of the record. The focus throughout will be on the strong vocals of Phillips as well as the strong guitar work. A little more electric at the start "Scenes From a Vinyl Recliner" musically holds back some for the vocals. Some of the verses are "breathy" yet remain unflinching. It follows the same feel to about the three minute mark before the guitars come up and the band really comes together for a strong outro. A single guitar brings up "Unquiet" and the vocals start almost immediately. Phillips has a little more push on his vocals and the guitars seem to have a fuller chorus sound to them. Phillips is right up once more on "Know Me", which is the longest track on the record. Its a single acoustic guitar and Phillips pushes his vocal range up in the opening verses. About 45 seconds in the drums come in and after a few bars the bass drum brings the rest of the guys in. To this point its actually the most up tempo track on the record. There are some nice full guitar runs on the latter parts of the song. "When We Recovered" has a slide guitar feel and is awash with really full vocals. The bass and drum sort of take a back seat to the harmonies and guitar parts on the track, otherwise it is a pretty decent track. Another up tempo track "One Wind Blows" follows and the bass gets a work out on this track. Adding to its zest there are hand claps and really strong guitar portions giving the track a terrific "bouncy" feel. On "Pale Blue" its the drum track that gets the focus. Vocally we hear more "oohs and ahhs" and really hold up strong. The darker sounding, and slower to build "Always Changing Probably" follows. It takes about 3 minutes for this track to really get going and on this track each member sets their own bar of excellence on their instrument. They all get a strong workout, but nothing is flashy or over the top. Complimenting the whole sound is a saxophone section that is neither too long, or too short. The single released from the record, and the song that got me to buy this very cd is "One Little Girl". The lyrics to the song are a little tough to swallow, with a line "One littler girl, beaten till she begs, told that this is love, told that she will have to take it". It is a sad song, but one wonders if the boy and girl have known each other for a while and a relationship has gone sour. The dichotomy of the song has to do with the use of 'little'. When referring to the girl is frail and defenseless, but the man its more weak and disrespectful. The final 30 seconds of the strong build with a furious tension and it all comes crashing to an end. The album closes with a real strong track "Covered in Roses". The chiming guitar and marching drum slowly build up the track and it grows. This is the one song I seemed to come back to 2 and 3 times when re listening to the record again. It might take a moment to get "going" but the payoff is worth it. See what I mean in the down load..that is what they are there for.

Where are they now? - The band has re-formed on various occasions since 1998. At first it was one off gigs, then in 2006 they did a full US tour. Since then a few multi night run of shows have popped up. Todd and Dean formed a band called Lapdog and they released a record but Dean decided to leave the band. Randy then joined the band and they released a second record. Dean has also composed and performed his first film score for the indie film "Desertion". Dean is the current manager of Toad the Wet Sprocket as well. Todd has been working a a producer. Glen has been arguably the most active former member. He began his solo career just as the band broke up and has released three solo albums with an ep due in early 2009. Glen is currently on tour as well, check his myspace page for dates.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - The one and only time I saw Toad the Wet Sprocket live was part of the 1997 HORDE tour. They were on the same bill as Neil Young, Beck et all. I recall parts of their set, but to be quite honest, I don't recall them either wowing me..or boring me.

FDF Overall Take - It was fun to go back and listen to this record. At times, when the band was getting a little more well known, I recall going to parties and people talking about how silly their name was and how even though they had a silly name they sounded pretty good was the general consensus. Phillips has a voice that has that great balance of vibrato and power, the band was tight and played well within their comfort zone. It may have gotten a little sugary for me later down the road, but it might be time to give some of the other cds a listen once more.


The band has an official site as well as a myspace page.
Want to book some studio time where Todd works? Well you need to check here.
Glen has and official and a myspace page too.

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

The MP3's have been removed Nov 20, 2008
Know Me
One Little Girl
Covered in Roses

All three tracks taken from (the now out of print so it seems)Bread and Circus which you can buy used here

Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request.


At 12:02 AM, Blogger Ello said...

I love Toad - but this album I do not have! Great review as always!


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