Toad the Wet Sprocket has just dropped their first record in sixteen years to Kickstarter backers (I was late, but got in under the wire), New Constellation, and if you know me, you know I’m thrilled they’re back. I’ve been a fan since high school, and it’s been great that as I’ve grown up, and my tastes have seasoned, so have theirs (in particular lead singer Glen Phillips’ stylistically varied solo work).
Don’t get the wrong idea: New Constellation sounds, immediately, like a Toad the Wet Sprocket album. It doesn’t sound like an alt-folky Phillips side project, or like an old band trying to reinvent itself a la Spinal Tap’s “free-form jazz exploration” (or even R.E.M.’s several “this is the album we rock on” records). It’s Toad.
But it’s an older Toad. One could come to this record having not known that there have been no new albums since 1997’s amazing Coil, and feel like this is exactly where you’d expect them to be at this point in their career as a band. It’s new material, it’s a new energy, it’s a new perspective of age and experience, but it’s an old feeling. It’s Toad.
This is not a review, per se, I’ve only gone through it twice fully. More plays are coming, of course. But I did want to bring up one thing about one song.
After Toad broke up way back in olden times, the guys who aren’t Phillips formed a band called Lapdog. I never owned one of their records, but mainly because I could never find an MP3 or reasonably priced CD version of either of their albums. They did make a handful of tracks available online for download as samples, and one I fell in love with.
It’s called “See You Again,” and I’ve played it countless times over the years. It sounds like this (presuming this video is not pulled down):
New Constellation features a song called “I’ll Bet On You.” It sounds like this (again, presuming this obviously unauthorized clip is not pulled):
I have so many questions and feelings.
First, I just gotta know, guys: How did you decide to do this? Was Todd all, “Hey let’s do ‘See You Again’!” and Glen was all, “OK if I can rewrite the lyrics,” and then Todd was all “GODDAMN IT FINE I STILL HATE YOU!” I want to know how the decision to rejigger the song was made.
My feelings are very mixed. I think the new song is great, beautiful, and the new lyrics and melody fit the music like a glove. But “See You Again” makes richer use of the background vocal harmonies, and the overall feeling is a little smoother and more nuanced, which I like a lot. Put a gun to my head (please don’t) to choose only one, I’d have to pick “See You Again,” but “I’ll Bet On You” is also just great.
But someone, please, tell me, how did this come to be???