As the world of music attempted to recover from the assault of the punk and disco era of the 70s, a new genre of rock music was brewing within the young college underground communities in the United States towards the late 80s. First known as college rock, the sound was popularized by trailblazing acts such as Sonic Youth, REM, Dinosaur Jr. and They Might Be Giants. However, by the early 90s, this genre underwent a radical shift, influenced heavily by the underground grunge scene in Seattle which eventually metamorphosized into what we now know as alternative rock.
Toad the Wet Sprocket in a live performance in Orlando in 2014. Image courtesy of Sam Howzit
The result was an era-defining explosion of culture-shifting music, spearheaded by mainstream acts like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. One band from that period of time that particularly stood out was the less celebrated, much milder, and infinitely more expressive, Toad the Wet Sprocket.
Led by lead singer Glen Phillips (who bizarrely doesn’t wear shoes during live performances), Toad the Wet Sprocket also featured Randy Guss (drums), Dean Dinning (bass) and Todd Nichols (guitar). They were the thinking man’s alt-rock band, with beautifully layered lyrics cradled inside gorgeous melodies and arrangements. Tracks like Fly From Heaven (a biblically-inspired critique of the perversion of the words of Christ from the perspective of His brother, James), Windmills (a soothing take on the perfect lover that is always out of reach and an ode to Dulcinea del Toboso of Miguel de Cervantes’ novel, Don Quixote) and Fall Down (incredibly, their only U.S. number one hit) were some of their better known, if not best, tracks.
A firm fan favorite though is All I Want, from their platinum-selling third album fear. Watching the music video of the song below will unfailingly drown longtime fans in melancholia, bringing visions of friends and lovers and laughter and sadness and hope…