As I entered the 1990s, both my lifestyle and musical interests were evolving significantly. Realizing that I could listen to more than Led Zeppelin, the Neville Brothers and U2, I spent a lot of the early ‘90s exploring new avenues of music and looking for alternative music wherever I could find it. Latching on to WPRK in Orlando as well as being fed suggestions by many friends, one of the acts I really claimed was Toad the Wet Sprocket. Ultimately, their album “fear” produced two highly successful singles that expanded their appeal into the mainstream, but the roots of their sound originate in southern California indie rock. In case you have wondered, they took their name from a naturally absurd Monty Python sketch.
The record opens with one of those two big hits, “Walk On the Ocean”. I was always drawn to this song by the unusual but appealing harmony vocals on the chorus, the overall drive of the melody and the meaningful lyrics. The rest of the album around their singles is easy to listen to and a solid listen, even if it lacks many other really catchy hooks. “Is It For Me” is an up-tempo rocker, as is “Butterflies”. Their music really thrives with acoustic guitars, and “Nightingale Song” is a great example of this sound.
The real hidden gem on this album for me is “Pray Your Gods”, a soft and slow tune that features some beautiful haunting vocals in the outro from Laurel Franklin. “Before You Were Born” is an intense and angry song, serving as proof of their diverse range of feelings and songwriting. “In My Ear” is a very typical ‘90s indie pop-rock song, of which many bands like the Gin Blossoms and the Goo Goo Dolls would follow behind.
“All I Want” is the other big hit from this album, and it is probably the song that first led me to Toad the Wet Sprocket. Similar to “Walk On the Ocean”, it has a very catchy harmony chorus and is just a great song with what seemed like a very fresh sound at the time.
In time, my interests shifted again, and Toad the Wet Sprocket struggled to sustain the success of this album, but for a time, this CD was on repeat and I enjoyed looking back on it one more time.