How Hating the New Toadies Album Sent Me Into An Existential Abyss

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The Toadies
Recently, I was gently reminded that the Toadies have a new album out, called Play.Rock.Music.. I listened to the album a couple times and tried to wrap my head around it. I waited for something to grab me: A hook, a melody. Instead, I found myself wincing. I couldn't bring myself to engage in the music. I was underwhelmed.

As a base critical instinct, I suppose I wanted to rip it apart. As a "rock" record, Play.Rock.Music. is fairly unimaginative. The Toadies' sound has not really progressed beyond those same razzy guitar riffs and bottom-feeding basslines that informed 1994's Rubberneck. After a third spin, I asked myself, This album is awful, right?

But then I saw the eyes peering at me in the darkness. Lots of them. People in Dallas still really love the Toadies, as the hordes descending on New Braunfels for Dia Del Los Toadies last weekend can attest. I can't fault them for having a devoted fan base, but I was miffed as to why such a middling band is roped off like a museum piece we can't touch. I asked a colleague what would happen if I gave the Toadies a bad review: "You'd probably get death threats." Intriguing. But why?

This left me thinking about the idea of institutional nostalgia, this idea that the Toadies, a band many people immediately think of when they think Dallas in the '90s, are the de facto sacred cow of that golden era. Every city has the band they still cling to. It's part of every scene's good old days rewards program. But what's the reward, actually? That twinge of nostalgia for those days? And is that comfortable bookmark of an era considered progress?

In Austin a few weekends ago, I was slapped by that phantom limb of nostalgia as I drove down Red River, thinking about the shows I saw on that strip over the years. The drive now feels like a tour of empty shrines; many of the clubs are gone or filled with new businesses. I thought about a quote attributed to Lou Reed: "I don't like nostalgia unless it's mine."

As someone who didn't grow up in Dallas, or even Texas, in the '90s, I obviously don't have this same ironclad regional devotion to the Toadies. Are they gaining new fans with Play.Rock.Music.? Does a 21-year-old care about the Toadies? Does a 40-year-old who didn't grow up with them? Or are they selling strictly to those same people who saw them at Trees 15 years ago?

Another colleague, when asked why Dallas has this love affair with nostalgia, put it this way:

"It's so weird that the addiction to nostalgia even exists here, because in so many ways, we are willing to neglect the old. We will tear buildings down. We don't protect our history the way some cities do, and maybe we don't have to. It's not like we're one of the original 13 colonies. The one silver lining to that attitude is [Dallas] should be a hotbed of experimentation."

Of course it should be. And I think there are pockets of that right now, in music, art and beyond. I'm not saying Toadies are what's wrong with Dallas -- they're trying to make a living like every other band. There is value in nostalgia, but only if we use it to progress somehow.

I went back and listened to Play.Rock.Music. again last night, trying to find something that would sway my line of questioning, make me stumble upon some great cosmic truth about the Toadies. I'm still searching.

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19 comments
OPLO
OPLO

"There is value in nostalgia, but only if we use it to progress somehow."  This line is the crux of  Schroeder's article.  It is also the reason why this article should not be one of criticism of The Toadies, but one of appreciation.  

 

Schroeder's article is not really about "the music."  It's about her realizing that not liking a record might lead to backlash - a backlash from a community in her opinion stuck in the past. It is a call for progress - for this community to support new areas of "music, art, and beyond." I agree; we need our community to be a "hotbed of experimentation"  - we need to think outside of convention and support new art and new music.  AND THIS IS WHAT THE TOADIES HAVE DONE!

 

New music and new bands are exactly what the Toadies have done more to help progress than any other band I've ever witnessed: 1) putting on a huge eclectic annual festival with over 98%  regional and local bands  2) hand-picking smaller Texas bands who are used to playing for 50 people to play for 5000+ people at The Dallas Observer St. Paddy's Concert  3) teaming with local radio stations to have contests where diverse independent bands can get radio coverage and a chance to play for a larger audience, etc. There is an uproar in Austin right now about ACL having about 10% of bands being local, and it might be hard to remember that the SXSW Festival was initially intended to promote regional music.   It is rare to have a hugely successful band put in so much effort to support the music of its community. This area is lucky.  

 

So yes, we need our community to be a "hotbed of experimentation"  - we need to think outside of its comfort zones and support new art, new cultural shifts, and new music.  Again, as Schroeder says, "There is value in nostalgia, but only if we use it to progress somehow."  But what does this call for progress in an article on a rock band really mean?  To progress is to grow or develop.   If any band in the last decade is using their so-called "nostalgic status" to help grow the scope of this music community, to help grow the fan-base of local bands, to help grow this region's musical influence, it is The Toadies.   If you are still looking for a "great cosmic truth" about The Toadies: the band you are criticizing is the band trying to help accomplish what you are calling for.  

 

And btw I think the new album rocks. Just like it intended. And I'm way under 40. 

 

FYI - some of the diverse bands The Toadies have supported: The Sword, The Black Angels, Here Holy Spain, True Widow, Ishi, Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears, Heartless Bastards, Centro-matic, Sleepercar, Girl in a Coma, Two Tons of Steel, The Bright Light Social Hour, Ume, Quiet Company, Boy+Kite, The Secret Machines, Ben Kweller, Eleven Hundred Springs, The Boom Boom Box, Faceless Werewolves, Brutal Juice, Tornahdo, Whiskey Folk Ramblers, The Riverboat Gamblers, O Conqueror, Cartright, The Phuss, The Soldier Thread, Diesel & Dixie, Sixteen Deluxe, Mariachi El Bronx, The King Bucks, etc...

dicksully
dicksully

I'm more than a little jealous.  I didn't get nearly as many reactionary comments on my review.

 

I don't think Toadies are the sacred cow.  I just think it's possible to both appreciate a band for accomplishments past and admit that they ran out of ideas at some point; to be both charitable and critical.  And I still say "Hell Below/Stars Above" is underrated.

christyhaynes
christyhaynes

i just read your article on Hall and Oates. You are too negative and don't need to be writing about music AT! ALL!! BOOOOOOOOOOOO BOOOOOOOOOOOO BOOOOOO. YOU'RE FIRED!! Your questions in this article and that one are ridiculous. You are making yourself look clueless. Next time add the word "like" throughout your articles. "like"  "like"  "like" ???? "i'm clueless like" "like" "like" "I'm still searching like" "like"  "i dunno" maybe i should rip off articles about Rihanna's butt whom no one that reads this mag wants to hear about too. "oh wait one of my co-workers already did that. like" "like" "like" "I'm still searching......I'm still searching......

WesTS
WesTS

Fans of all ages love the Toadies. I tour with the band and have worked with them since their reunion. I see it on a nightly basis while we are out on tour. That's right, not just Dallas. Not just Texas, for that matter. Rubberneck and "Possum Kingdom" are definitely the fuel behind most of the attention they gather, it sold over a million copies. The use of "Possum Kingdom" in Guitar Hero a few years ago saw new, younger fans coming to shows. But the band sells more than just old copies of Rubberneck. I don't see many "one hit wonders" having the same kind of consistent success as they do. Especially success that allows for that "one hit wonder" to throw their own festival (outside of their home city) every year for the past five years, or continuously tour the entire U.S. in a bus, employing a road crew that out-numbers the band.To keep this about the album itself (which is really what should happen in the first place):  it is a full length spur-of-the-moment rock record that was meant to be an EP. Its supposed to be an album that doesn't think hard (aside from "The Appeal"). I laughed when you said "as a rock record it is fairly unimaginative." ITS A ROCK RECORD. The record is called Play.Rock.Music. What did you want it to be, a rock opera?   If you don't like the album, fine. If you want to write about how you don't like it, fine. It is obviously your right as a writer and as the music editor. But I think its important for the music editor to do their best to champion their music scene. Keep your focus on the great talent around you. I've just never understood why a writer would spend their time hating something other people obviously care for. Is it to be "edgy?" Why not write about something you DO actually like? I mean surely you have something better to do than write an article about writing an article, right?  I have pride for more than The Toadies, I have pride for the overwhelming amount of great bands and people that fill this city. I just don't want to see the Observer turn into a negative for the sake of being negative, Dallas-sucks-because-we-really-just-all-secretly-wish-we-were-in-Austin,-right? collective.

yenni
yenni

Ms. or Mrs. Reviewer: If you are 40 (and your line "Does a 21-year-old care about the Toadies? Does a 40-year-old who didn't grow up with them? Or are they selling strictly to those same people who saw them at Trees 15 years ago?" seems to imply that you are, or near 40) and this is what concerns you, on any level, then you have bigger problems to sort out than this.  However, since this does seem to concern you, why don't you just go ahead and put out your record review? Why spend x amount of time writing about thinking about writing a review because it might not make you a popular person?  Or, you could take a cue from many of your Observer colleagues and post up something with the expletive "fuck" gratuitously placed throughout.  Or better yet, do BOTH!

rjasonbonner
rjasonbonner

What civic identity does Austin have truly that wasn't marketed by the city government to draw in a key demographic? And out of the current Austin bands, how many of them are made up of people who are from this area or spanned a significant amount of time here? Wheres the nostalgia in Austin when Emo's is gone and sixth street looks like a functional West End? As far as the Toadies are concerned, they have sold a million+ albums and make records on their own terms. Why throw them under the bus to try and make a point about nostaligia.  Maybe Dallas lacks some youth culture or subculture vibe that Austin has, but Austin is where young goes to die. Dallas is where you get a jobbie job. With the coveted demographic flooding the area, I am sure things will change. roky erickson, Armadillo World Headquarters, Daniel Johnston, ect.. Do you really think thats Austin? (Both those acts have made suck records too btw). Austin are the kids under 30 making mediocre rehash of whatever was hip in Brooklyn 2 years ago. Lets do the real math and write the great article on how many records have been sold by bands from the different areas. I once saw Fastball at Antones in Austin and there were like only a hundred people there. That made me sad. They made some good music and sold a bunch of records. Review the Toadies album for real somewhere on this blog. Musicians are entrepreneurs and what the Toadies do on the road, with their festival celebrating all kinds of Texas bands from all over Texas, etc... is a great testament to them as a good business despite what one may think about their current artist endeavors. Wasn't this album recorded in Austin by Frenchie Smith? Oh, and I think the Toadies are from Ft. Worth.. (Do not read as angry, read as wishing the hill country and springs were near by too)

christyhaynes
christyhaynes

Are they gaining new fans withPlay.Rock.Music.?  ANSWER: Definitely, I believe they are gaining more fans with their new album . I went to their Denton show right before the album was released, they played their new songs and by the happy look on the younger faces they swayed to what I call a  "Texas beat" that the Toadies have in their songs,  I could tell they liked the new songs without a doubt! No one seemed bored that's for sure! They might have been there for the younger bands before the Toadies but they stayed. The place was packed with young kids. Does a 21-year-old care about the Toadies? ANSWER: I think so. There were new "younger bands" from the area played that show in Denton as well. They brought out the 21 year olds and if you ask me, they will always remember the Toadies due to their love of music and I bet for some it was the first time they heard the Toadies live. With the local radio stations playing the first single off their new album they will be able to reminisce and spread the word. Perhaps even go buy the new album "just because they were there" which in return will grow on them like most music does for people that have a love of music. Does a 40-year-old who didn't grow up with them? ANSWER: I'm a huge Toadies fan. Being 39 and having many friends around the same age I know I've turned other people on to them. Or are they selling strictly to those same people who saw them at Trees 15 years ago? ANSWER: This is a given. The show at the Palladium could answer this question. I saw so many die hard fans there. Many I had seen before at other concerts of theirs. All in all the Toadies are back whether you "get it" or not. I'm sure you are not alone with your point of view but you should give it a chance. Listen to their other albums and see how different they they sound. There are so many different songs it's great. Unlike one particular sound like many bands have. I like them because of that. I've never heard any other band sound so different on all of their albums. When Hell Below / Stars Above album came out I was so shocked because it was so fast and hard unlike the previous albums. I was floored as a fan!  Not only can they rip out some good hard tunes they can also write lovely slow songs that somewhat let you put your own meaning to them. I hope they continue their success and I know the fans that pack in the shows feel the same way. 

 

kplo
kplo moderator communitymanager

Too bad they can't just release Rubberneck again. 

SurlyZ
SurlyZ

Hell Below/Stars Above was great. No Deliverance was really good. Feeler was not bad. I'll give this one a chance.

johnrhett2004
johnrhett2004

That's beacuse your chasing the wrong band! Check out Kelvin- they used to be Cathouse. Cathouse played with The Toadies at Mad Hatters in Fort Worth- they were a Fort Worth Band! In tried to make nice with them but they were not having it. Dig a little deeper babe- So many creative wonderful people were and are doing their thing in Dallas. Without corporate sponsership.

ScottP
ScottP

Awesome. I was given their second CD to review for my HS newspaper and fucking chucked it out the window. I was right in the Rubberneck wheelhouse, 6th grade or so.

 

It's an interesting larger point you bring up and I'm not sure I can answer it. But, to me, the people still sexxing with the Toadies aren't necessarily the ones who are making the "pockets" of Dallas cool with art, music and beyond. They're the people who also find nostalgia in still seeing Eve 6, 311, Sublime at Starplex/Gexa thing-avillion or Frisco, Green Day or whatever. It's a fringe outlet, current Toadies fans are a small portion of people.

 

Overall, I still think it does go back to a lack of identity for Dallas. People moving out of the city, the city shitting on itself, tearing down buildings and the surprising lack of embrace of Texas-y things like country music. SA, Austin, FW seem to be fine in that department. Thus, without a lack of identity late 20-30-40 year old white people think the Toadies is "Dallas" or something.

Randy_Smoot
Randy_Smoot

@Dallas_Observer As you get older you learn there's no Santa Claus, Unicorns, or "New Toadies Album" #burnedinlate90s

christyhaynes
christyhaynes

Toadies don't only make you bang your head they also make you shake your ass.

yenni
yenni

 @ScottP Ah, to be young again...and know everything...and to be white and talk about "white people."  

audra.schroeder1
audra.schroeder1 moderator

 @ScottP I definitely see a cult of nostalgia for bands beyond the Toadies here, but has it always been a lack of civic or cultural identity that fosters that cult? I want to be enlightened.

yenni
yenni

 @audra.schroeder1  @ScottP Civic identity? Cultural identity? And supporting local bands that have been around a long time (now deemed "nostalgia acts"?  First off, do you know what the term "nostalgia" means? By the way you use it, I'd say not.  Then you have the issue of why is something that is supposedly new better than what came before it and what, from that which came before it, continues to be.  (Supposedly new because much of what is "new" is something rehashed, yet many times "new" to those who don't know any better.)  To tie those three things together points toward a strange way of looking at the world. I guess it's a byproduct of social networking, etc.. 

audra.schroeder1
audra.schroeder1 moderator

 @christyhaynesFunny story: Deborah Downer is actually my birth name, but I changed it so I could have a wildly successful career writing about bands.

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