The Toadies’ Deliciously Malicious ‘Rubberneck’ Turns 20
Published: May 7, 2014
In 1993, after being noticed by Interscope Records on the strength of their debut EP Pleather, Texas post-grunge rock band the Toadies began recording their debut full- length. The album, named Rubberneck for its pervasive sense of disaster watching, would prove to be one of the most enduring and definitive rock albums of the 1990s. For every bit of adulation heaped upon the platinum-selling Rubberneck by fans and critics alike, there has been just as much ire and confusion surrounding some of the album’s dark and seemingly nefarious lyrical content.
From the anxiously pounding, instrumental opener “Mexican Hairless,” to the calm, acquiescent rage of acoustic closer “I Burn,” Rubberneck is an album wherein ageless struggles—between control and abandon, good and evil, love and hate—rage on. The album deals with baptism (“Backslider”), love as salvation (“Mister Love”), a personal heaven (“Away”), the sour end of a relationship (“Quitter”), evolution (“I Come from the Water”) and, possibly, home invasion and sexual assault (“Tyler”).
Themes of sin and redemption abound, along with a delirious tension between how we should be and how we actually are. As such, Rubberneck’s success and staying power act as touchstones for our culture’s perennial obsession with our own propensities toward the dark side. For more information on the Toadies’ songwriting inspiration, something of a coyly guarded secret, head on over to thetoadies.com and check out guitarist Clark Vogeler’s insightful mini-documentary Dark Secrets: The Stories of Rubberneck.
As the band tours extensively in celebration of their landmark album’s 20th anniversary, the Current caught up with the Toadies’ main creative force, singer-songwriter Vaden Todd Lewis, over the phone recently to discuss Rubberneck in retrospect. Dig the highlights of that chat below and don’t miss the band performing Rubberneck in full at Josabi’s.
Out of all the forgettable albums released through the years, how does it feel to have created, in Rubberneck, such an enduring work?
It’s killer. It’s surprising that people gave a damn to begin with, and certainly that they still do. Who knows what makes something popular in the music industry. I definitely think the timing had a lot to do with it.
To go along with all the good, what difficulties have you faced in relation to Rubberneck?
Well, mostly, it just opened up a lot of doors, like radio has been great to us. But as we continue to make music, it’s sometimes tough to get them to play a little of the new stuff. And that’s frustrating.