There's a certain poetry to the Toadies' resurgence of late.
The band, having drifted back together in the mid-'00s after a messy, frustrating end to its major-label adventures, rediscovered its appetite for relentless alt-rock songs and, in 2008, released No Deliverance, the first salvo in what has become a blistering second act.
The band also lent its name to an annual gathering -- Dia de Los Toadies -- nestled in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, where the band curates a two-day gathering of musicians that it appreciates. (This year's two-day event kicks off Aug. 31 and features Helmet, Riverboat Gamblers, Brutal Juice and the King Bucks, among others.)
The Toadies' timing is fitting, considering the trajectories of not only the musicians but also, the city from whence they emerged.
Fort Worth's music scene has enjoyed a renaissance over the past five years, dovetailing with the re-emergence of Vaden Todd Lewis and his bandmates. One necessarily doesn't have everything to do with the other -- although there is some overlap; Lewis produced the debut album of Fort Worth rockers the Phuss, for example -- but it's hard to ignore the serendipity of it all.
The Toadies' latest LP, Play.Rock.Music, connects to the renewed enthusiasm in another way. Originally intended as a series of EPs, the group (Lewis, guitarist Clark Vogeler, drummer Mark Reznicek and new bassist Doni Blair) instead hit a vein of inspiration during sessions earlier this year and expanded its concepts to fit a full album.
"The plan was just to record some demos," Lewis said in a statement. "It went so well we decided to compile the songs into an EP. But we were having such a good time, we decided to keep the ball rolling and make a full-length record. A lot of this material was written on the fly in the studio. It was a very exciting and scary process."
Following 2010's re-recorded Feeler, the Frenchie Smith-produced Music reaches back to Deliverance's taut, unsparing structure, punching out 11 songs in 44 minutes.
As before, Toadies excels at blending creepy lyrics -- "We're all looking for a magic bullet/A Mr. Trigger and the will to pull it," Lewis intones on Magic Bullet -- and engaging melodies, given weight by the band's polished musicianship. The delicious sense of dread hanging over Music helps dissipate the sense of familiarity created by tracks like Beside You (which, lyrically at least, evokes Possum Kingdom's unhinged narrator).
Howls, thunderous guitars and stylish menace -- the Toadies bring it all on Play.Rock.Music, which wisely leaves listeners wanting more. Rather than burning out and fading away, the band seems intent on conserving energy this time around, expending it in short, ferocious, precisely directed bursts.
Just as Fort Worth's music scene shows no signs of flaming out, neither does one of its most treasured exports.