The Record Lounge: Set It On Fire – Toadies Finally Release The Incendiary “Feeler”
They say it’s not bragging if it’s the truth. Therefore I have no problems saying that not only am I intimate with this band, it’s members, and it’s music, but very intimate with these particular songs and all of their entities, and what the newly recorded and recently released version of Feeler became after the myth, the unfinished business of this record, and all the speculation. I truly believe this is the only review you need to read. I am not only possibly one of their biggest fans, but also a fairly harsh critic. So here we go.
The original Feeler, this is not. I cannot think of these songs not in any other light. The “unofficial” Feeler that has made several rounds, the demos, live versions of these songs we all had procured over the years, all pale in comparison to what we have finally been presented. In the following paragraphs I will attempt to give some history and background, track by track.
Opening with one of my favorites from this time period, “Trust Game” didn’t exist except in demo form. Actually the last of these songs written, it debuted at Trees on the first night of a 2 night stand in February 1999, as the show opener. Considered by many as a slight nod to Led Zeppelin, incorporating acoustic and electric guitars ala Rubberneck‘s “I Burn“, this was one of the songs I asked about when was told they were going to record some of the Feeler era material. It was changed only a little from the original demo version in lyrics only, the arrangement is true to the original state. It’s heavy, and a solid choice for opening track.
Track 2 is the first of two post-Rubberneck Darrel Herbert era song in this set. “Waterfall” was present on the spring 1996 tours, as support for The Red Hot Chili Peppers and on their own outings. Mistakenly included on the radio promo only disc “Live From The Pit”, the original live version (with Herbert) has a faster pace than the one recorded at Pedernales with producer Paul Leary 2 years later. Although I was grateful there was a studio recording, I was never really jazzed about the new, more subdued version recorded with Leary. The version here is a middle ground between the two. The pace is picked up, and beautifully recorded, with vocalist Vaden Todd Lewis able to scream and use those vocal chords in the manner they were supposed to be, and with the emotion and urgency this song needs.
“Dead Boy Boogie” stays true to its original form from the demo, and the scrapped Feeler. At this time one of the big rockers, it was usually paired with “Suck Magic” in recordings and live. It was one of the main standouts of the original demo, and the newest version is a definite win.
We move on to one of the bigger changes on the new recording, the new full band version of “City of Hate”. The earlier referred track, which was put together by using Pro-Tools loops and wizardry, comes off better in the full band version vs. the piecemeal original.
As an almost counter to Brainiac’s “Flypaper” (which both Lewis and drummer Mark Reznicek have cited as the best pop song ever) “Mine” is possibly the best Brainiac song Braniac didn’t write. Light and bouncy bassline, dissonant guitars, along with a pop feel brings to life one of the original demo’s more forgettable tracks. The arrangements and lyrics are intact while the new recording gives it a larger purpose than on the first run of Feeler recordings.
This was my favorite song of the original Feeler material. “Suck Magic” is brought to life here in such amazing form I got goosebumps. Some lyrical modifications, along with a little latter day studio trickery take this track to a whole new plateau. When Lewis, Reznicek and guitarist Clark Vogeler meet at the bridge, look out, it’s a monster. This was another track where Lewis’ vocals commanded to be gritty and worn, but
not allowed on the original Feeler take. They certainly are here.
In what seemed to be an odd placement come the largely instrumental “ATF Theme”. We see some slight rearranging here, but overall true to the original demo form (“ATF Theme” was NOT recorded for the original Feeler).
“Joey, Let’s Go” was recorded for both the original Feeler, and even for Hell Below/Stars Above. Those versions don’t differ much from the original demos, and neither does this one. “Joey…” contains one of my favorite chord progressions the band has written.
Bringing us to the final track, one of my top 5 Toadies songs of all time, “Pink”. “Pink” is actually the oldest of these songs, and the second track from the post-Rubberneck Darrel Herbert era. This made its debut as the opener at The Engine Room, during the spring, 1995. The arrangement has changed a bit since, but has maintained its interest and integrity throughout. “Pink” was written among such other classics as “Sinker”, “Cut Me Out”, and “Paper Dress”, during what I have always felt was the bands most fruitful period, leading into the writing for Feeler.
This is the album the Toadies were supposed to make. And although I firmly believe the Toadies story would have been much different had it been released in 1998, I think we have been given a much more solid representation of these songs. And as a matter of fact, I believe this recording could be the definitive representation of the band.
The direction of the music and attitude of the Toadies in 1997 would give way to the riff and lead driven music of the past two albums. Although Feeler displays some of these traits, it is largely built on sonic landscapes and their large, full, giant guitar sound. Maybe revisiting this material will come through in the next batch of songs.
Rumor has it we might see a new record by mid-2011.
God I hope so.