With that out of the way, we can tackle their newest release Play.Rock.Music. The years have been kind to the band’s sound as well as Todd Lewis’ voice, but on Play.Rock.Music. it proves to be something of a double-edged sword. On the opening track, “Rattle’s Revival”, Lewis sounds just as he did on “Rubberneck” way back when. But hearing him call out for the listener to “shake it like a rattler” over tube-driven power chords and muffed lead lines feels a bit contrived. It is more akin to your drunken uncle on Memorial Day than it is a party rock call to arms.
While it is a crisp, accomplished sounding record, Toadies just seem to be plodding along the same beaten paths as their former contemporaries. The riffs on “Get Low” sound as though they could’ve fit anywhere onto Hole’s Pretty on the Inside. The age-old adherence to the loud/quiet/loud dynamic may have sounded revolutionary on the early Pixies records, but now it feels a little too close to painting by numbers. You know exactly when the guitars drop in and out during the verses and anyone with a passing knowledge of what made a hit in the mid-90s knows the precise moment when the song ramps up for the chorus and titular hook.
“Animals” is a jaunty bar-banger with a verse riff that is eerily similar to Nirvana’s “About a Girl”, replete with lyrics like “Love is a sneaky bitch/Make you happy or make you sick”. Songs like “Sunshine” and “Laments of a Good Man” are filled with sludgy, stoner rock sensibilities that give the impression that the guys in Toadies are trying to sound like Queens of the Stone Age but end up only reaching Monster Magnet.
Play.Rock.Music. sounds like it could’ve had the potential to be more than a middle of the road Hard-Rock record. The LP is filled with its fair share of cool riffs and boot stompers, but everything on it sounds so woefully safe and radio-ready that when Lewis says “We burned this city down” it’s a little hard to take him seriously.