Cling as they might to their collective and individual integrity, these guys (and a few girls) still longed to be rock stars, and the sooner they expressed that desire over saving any specific rainforest, the less likely they were to rocket to success with one unlikely album, plummet back to earth with the next, and be accused of selling out. In the ‘90s, one such band was Live, and while Soul Asylum was never lumped into the post-R.E.M. wave, their career arc is worth scoffing at here.
A sense of humor helped, and that’s one reason why Toad The Wet Sprocket didn’t follow the same self-destructive path. They started mostly together in high school, and weren’t exactly pinup material; some may have found the singer cute, but the guitarist and bass player sported anachronistic beards common to guys in the drama club. Following the classic template, their first album was self-released before being picked up by Columbia. Most of Bread And Circus is in the same vague setting: elongated, unintelligible syllables, harmonized for emphasis, washed in reverb, with a rhythm section that is both competent and dynamic. A few songs stand out, such as the strong opener “Way Away”, followed by “Scenes From A Vinyl Recliner”. “Know Me” lets the angst push past furrowed eyebrows, and while “One Little Girl” is far from the best track, at least they were trying to stretch out with something the kids could dance to. “Always Changing Probably” even has a saxophone, for crying out loud.
Bread And Circus still sounds like a demo, because it was. They would get better, but it remains something of a harbinger.
Toad The Wet Sprocket Bread And Circus (1989)—3