Today marks a very special day in the history of Rock Band for me. Today marks the day we get one of my all time favorite bands the Toadies into Rock Band with a 3 pack from their Rubberneck album. What better way to start my review series with one of my all time favorite albums? In this series I will be deconstructing each and every song on an album and give it a rating and personal insight into what its strengths and weaknesses are. So lets get to it.
(Note: I'm using live versions of the songs on some links)
Rubberneck by the Toadies
Release Year: 1994
So begins the madness of Rubberneck with possibly my favorite opening track ever. It's essentially an instrumental with one unsettling scream 60 seconds in (on the album version) in concert the scream is placed randomly. It's got driving distorted guitars, booming bass, and chaotic drums. This lets you know 2 things about the Toadies, sure this isn't the fastest or craziest you've ever heard a band play and in fact this song may be the fastest the Toadies ever do play. Two, Mexican Hairless despite any real lyrics is unsettling, would you dance to this? no. Would you feel romantically enticed listening to it? No. It's emotional without words which is the truest form of music where you let the instrument speak for you. This leads us to the power of the Toadies, they are masters of expressing villainous attitudes through simplicity.
No Words, a little repetitive, but short so it knows it's perfect amount of allowed time.
Believe it or not this may be the most important song on this album. It ties everything together in the album.
I see this song as more or less a continuation from Mexican Hairless. You now hear a man explaining that he needs love and throughout the album there is a continual quest for love from 3 different sources. Family, Romance, and Religion. This track is essentially the mission statement for the album and ties them together into kind of a story. We'll dwell into this song more later."Ya gonna make me happy? Ya gonna make me smile?
Can you save me? Tell me, mister love"
Rating: 10/10 in the context of the album 9/10 on its own.
Every first album needs a mission statement from the band so you know what they're about. Using cryptic unsettling approach to not just wanting but demanding love helps put the Toadies to light in what they hope to achieve.
Backslider brings us to one of the earliest memories for the narrator to find love. The first form of love we should all experience is love from a family. However by definition a "Backslider" is "To revert to sin or wrongdoing, especially in religious practice." So the narrator is losing the love of his family because he is going against an unspoken sin.
This song teaters between pop and alternative, but still keeps it's signature villainous vibe.
Heere we are to what is considered the Toadies signature song. It's cryptic, unsettling, and 18 years later is still capturing the imaginations of newer audiences. To me this song is the Grunge version of Stairway to Heaven or Bohemian Rhapsody, iconic songs without concrete lyrics that are still sparking debates to this day. What sets this song apart from the generations of normal love songs that came before it was the violent imagery presented in the song. Instead of love being presented as a token of appreciation, its worded as though this love is something forbidden. Possibly the backslider sin mentioned before. But then we're presented the "Do you wanna die?" lyric repeated to an uncomfortable degree.
"Is he going to kill her? What the hell is going on in this song?" Well I'm here to clarify a few of these tidbits.
I feel this is a reference to "Le Petite Mort" which is French for "little death" which is an orgasm and in the culture it was created, orgasms are seen as a spiritual release. (So help me Jesus seems a whole lot dirtier) French literature would have this translate to "I died" in English which is actually quite confusing if you don't understand the context. So essentially "Do you wanna die, means he wants to give her the highest sense of pleasure. Possum Kingdom, that title nobody gets either is the slang term for a lake in Texas where Toadies are from. This is the romance part of the story. Hopefully this clarified the song a bit.
Young love feels wrong sometimes, its awkward and mysterious. This song exemplifies that mood better than any song I've ever listened to.
Quitter follows Possum Kingdom in the sense it goes from the best spot of a relationship to the worst, the end. It's the most obvious song on the album and lacks the cryptic charm of the others. You can guess that the narrator just got his heart broken and he's now regretting everything he ever did for her. To aid my idea that this was his first love, he flat out mentions himself as their "first lover."
Great beat, just way too freaking obvious for its own good.
Before we go into my analysis I'd like to point out that this is one of Toadies earliest songs. The origin of this song lies some 6-7 years before arriving on Rubberneck.
Back on topic, Away is a good kick back to the wonderful cryptic attitude of Rubberneck.
Death is being contemplated as many young people feel after being betrayed by a lover. The only love he knows now is the love from religion since his family and girlfriend have rejected him at this point. He sets his sights on heaven and referring to death as just being away.Away-
"To be in the shade
The oldest trees above my head
When I'm away, I know in my heart
There is a heaven"
I love this song and its place right after Quitter is perfect. Would I have chosen this as Rock Band DLC. Yes, it would have been part of a full album download, but I digress.
I Come From the Water
This is another one of Toadies songs that appear 6-7 years before its release on Rubberneck. It seems to have arrived from a time period when the Toadies wanted to write songs about being actual frogs. One might take this as the turning point where the album goes insane, but it actually fits quite nicely behind Away. Having contemplated religion as the only option, I come from the water can mean baptism. So he's returning from his religious rebirth. However the narrator has new plans in his mind.
He wants to go back to being the same with his former lover. His love is pulsating through him and he's off to go find his former lover."Life in the desert
Just to be together
The sand forever
The same forever
It moves beneath me
It pulls my body
My pulse beats hotter
So far from the water"
At first glance it seems skin deep, but there is way more mischievous fun going on in this song than meets the eye.
Welcome to the creepiest song on the entire album, Tyler.
The narrator is back, his name is Tyler and he's going to make his way through the kitchen window to be with her tonight. I'd like to note that the Toadies don't actually explicitly explain in details the terribleness of the actions unfolding, but instead leave it up to the imagination. Is it rape, is it consensual, is she underage, why the hell are they going to Mexico. Is it kidnapping or is it a sick imagination?"And she runs, and she waits, and I wait"
This is antihero rock to the maximum. It exemplifies the evil songwriting that had an influence on bands that came afterwards. Seriously go listen to Queens of the Stone Age and you will see the influence Toadies had on them especially this song.
For the longest time I felt this song was out of place on the album. It goes from trying to climb through a girl's window to pushing her away... Or does it. This is when the mental disorder of the narrator comes to light. He wants the obsessive thoughts of this girl out of his mind. When you're not thinking clearly to begin with, death seems like the only option.
I still do not like this song, its gone from using clever references to primitivism. It does feel like the breakdown of the album is happening so it makes sense, just musically it leaves way to much to be desired, especially the strongest points of the album beforehand were the lyrics.
The madness is finally here. And all he can seem to communicate is, "You hurt me you (insert f word or c word depending on the line) I feel the album after Tyler takes a dip in quality, but it still makes sense. This is the confrontation with his lover. He's breaking down to the lowest form by instead of blaming himself for being what she can't love, it was her thats the problem.
Distorted enough and short enough to be interesting still just a terrible dip in quality compared to the other tracks.
This is the final arch to the story of a love scorned man and it also represents the development of the album.
They even acknowledge the dip in quality as a planned event... Holy crap... And you thought I was just pulling things out of my ass. This is the genius planning of this album. This feels like the back to basics reflection on where the narrator has been lead. He's about to kill himself and the former lover in a murder suicide. But not with "tooth and bone" which he finds unimpressive, it has to be fire. Man's first invention and still captives the imagination. The primitivism comes out as He burns the air she breathes and then himself. The story ends. And it was all done in the name of love. Love makes us all do stupid things, especially the rejection of said love. Mister love.In the beginning
We were smarter
And the flame was heaven-sent
Through the ages
We got stupid
Now we must repent
Rating: 7/10 as a song. 10/10 as part of the album.
It ties together the album at the end and acknowledges itself as a degrading beast. The brilliance of it all gets lost in the music which many feel sound too similar. But when broken down lyrically it becomes fascinating.
Rubberneck overall: 9/10 Better than the sum of its parts, some great songs and some mediocre ones intertwined to make something far greater. Not perfect, but a genius finish of self awareness make it an experience more so than just listening fodder.
Favorites: Mister Love, Possum Kingdom, I Come From the Water, Tyler
Tell me if you liked my review and also tell me if you'd like me to review an album.
Upcoming reviews in the coming weeks
Caravan Palace - Caravan Palace
Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand
Ween - The Mollusk
Dandy Warhols - Welcome To the Monkey House
Jimmy Eat World - Clarity