(Interscope; 2004)

By Todd Aman | 16 August 2007

Freshman year of high school. You’re skinny, awkward, and pimply. You’re shooting for “cool,” but you’ll settle for “acceptance.” You hate the fucking nerds and their Armor Class Level 4. You ride the bus to school. You desperately want to access to pussy, but you can’t learn the password. You hate the fucking cool people and their Dawson’s Creek. Your bedtime is 10 P.M. No one understands you and you’re very, very pissed off.

You love the Toadies for expressing everything you can’t express about your anger, sexual frustration, and social longing. Walking down the hallway, ears plugged, with Rubberneck spinning in your Discman, you immediately tune-out the bullshit people around you. You’re on Mars, bobbing your head frantically to “Mexican Hairless” -- the opening instrumental track loaded with chugging guitars, spastic punky percussion, and one crazy-ass hook. After two minutes, you’re already listening to “Mr. Love” and walking into History class. Your teacher says, “Take those damn headphones off in my class.” You scream, “We’re gonna show you a thing or two about love! Love, love, love!” and you break his nose. Indeed, the Toadies have condensed all your angst into one totally clutch album, man. Now, its all coming out in one giant fit of violence, rape, and drug abuse.

Not to imply that the Toadies are entirely aggression and testosterone. These guys could actually write some damn tight songs. At best, “Possum King” packs three hooks, a wicked bass-line, and twisted sex-abuse lyrics into five minutes of rock-and-roll awesomeness. At worst -- i.e. “Away” -- the Toadies repeat one hook during the verses and pound out power chords during the chorus, still amounting to one pretty sweet song. The band even mixes-up the typical rock song structure, creatively adding extra bridges and guitar breakdowns to build tension at multiple points in the songs (check out “Backslider”). “I Come from the Water” slides effortlessly from its nuts 4/4 guitar hook into a twisted 3/4 waltz bridge. Meanwhile, the lyrics range from simple and dumb to simple but brilliantly twisted. For example, “Tyler” begins as a simple love song, but develops into a story about a stalker who eventually breaks into his obsession’s home to rape her. The first verse's lyrics, which initially sounded like sweet nothings, take on an entirely new meaning after you hear the final verse.

Freshman year of college. You’ve emerged from puberty as a well-adjusted suburbanite in training for yuppie-hood. You’ve gotten laid once or twice, so your angst is gone, or at least well hidden. Also, because you’ve become a pretentious indie snob, you’ve thrown out your whole high school CD collection -- everything from the Pennywise to the Oasis. Yet, for some reason, you’ve held onto Rubberneck. You don’t know why you’ve kept the disc around, next to your Dismemberment Plan and your Interpol, but you just couldn’t bear to toss it. Well, I’ll tell you why: not only did you identify with Rubberneck, the album’s actually fucking good, even all these years later.