Friday, March 24, 2017

Toad The Wet Sprocket 2: Pale

Kids looking for jangly pop with earnest vocals and mumbled lyrics while a certain band from Georgia took its sweet time between albums could have done a lot worse than Toad The Wet Sprocket, and they probably did. Their second album was recorded, again, on the cheap, with as little as possible spent on a cover design (all lyrics in lower case, of course), though it did boast something of a “name” producer in the form of one Marvin Etzioni. Once a member of Lone Justice, at this point in his career he was dubbed the “Mandolin Man”, and indeed adds some of that trilling to “Come Back Down”, the first single from Pale and the first single in the band’s catalog to utilize the word “down”.
Most of the album follows the same template: moody, not-too-loud songs mixing acoustic and electric guitars, sung by young Glenn Phillips, whose vocals are either tolerated or hated. Lead guitarist Todd Nichols sings two tracks that might as well be the main guy, but he doesn’t have the same gift of finding a wrenching melody. As with the debut, the overall sound is a bit claustrophobic, like an overcast afternoon in a house several miles away from a gas station or food. Some more moments emerge: the dynamics in “Don’t Go Away”, with its violin-tinged ending; the unsettling domestic drama related in “Corporal Brown”; the second half of closer “She Cried”; and possibly best of all, the nearly rocking “Jam”, complete with a “joke” ending. “Chile” would appear to be something of a political commentary, though we could do without the accordion (and didn’t like it when that other band used it either).
Pale had its fans upon release, but was most likely discovered by later fans going backwards. In that case, it’s a better listen than the debut, and ably bridges the gap to the next one. And only a couple of songs sound alike.

Toad The Wet Sprocket Pale (1990)—3

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