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Reinvigorated Toadies go backward to go forward on 'Feeler'



Posted 12:26pm on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2010

The past continues to make the present-day Toadies sound remarkably vital.

As with 2008's comeback effort, No Deliverance, and its spot-on re-creation of late-'90s guitar rock, Vaden Todd Lewis, Clark Vogeler, Mark Reznicek and Doni Blair take a tricky project -- appropriating and re-recording a never-released album, the near-mythic Feeler -- and deliver a pummeling half-hour of menacing music.

The Cliffs Notes version of what went sideways with Feeler: After the platinum-plated success of 1994's Rubberneck, Lewis and then-bandmates Vogeler, Reznicek and bassist Lisa Umbarger (who left the band in 2001) began working on demos, sending the rough material to then-label Interscope.

After several tries, the Fort Worth-based group was finally allotted studio time in 1997 to record these new songs, which were intended for Feeler. Once the master tapes were handed over for the next-to-last stage of mixing, Interscope shelved the project. It was nearly two years before the band would start over, which resulted in 2001's Hell Below/Stars Above. Mere months after it was released, the band broke up.

Almost a decade later, the Toadies reunited, with Blair in Umbarger's place, and joined the parade of Grunge Decade veterans reuniting to embark upon lucrative tours.

Unlike most of those '90s refugees, Toadies actually sounded and felt like a band half its age. No Deliverance silenced any doubters that muscular, sinister rock music had ever really gone out of style.

Feeler, which clocks in at a startlingly brief 28 minutes and nine tracks, is an odd bird in that, instead of simply releasing the product of those decade-old sessions, the band went back into the studio with producer Rob Schnapf and re-worked nine of the nearly 20 songs reported to have been recorded in 1997.

The end result is a band picking up where it left off at the height of its fame, yet also following up a well-received return to the spotlight. Both times, expectations were/are roughly the same; can the band build upon its success and move forward?

If brutal, propulsive tracks like Dead Boy or Suck Magic are any indication, the new album Lewis and company are reportedly cutting this winter will be no less intense than the band's catalog to date. The Toadies excel at meshing lyrical foreboding and furious riffs like few other bands.

Lewis keeps the vein-popping screams to a minimum, but when he lets fly, as he does during the climax of Joey Let's Go, it's enough to make you clamor for flannel and Doc Martens.

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