WASHINGTON, August 27, 2012 –The deconstruction of a one hit wonder is an interesting thing. A common critical misconception is that the quality of a band is defined by the artist who pushed the band into relative prominence, for however long that was. Almost all the time, a one hit wonder, whether a band or an individual, watches one song become suddenly popular because the mainstream has caught on to a specific genre. The market is then flooded by bands, or rather songs, that fit the description of that genre.
What normally happens next is the artists or band in question, for one shining moment, finds that he or they have created that one perfect song that encapsulates the genre just as well and maybe better than the bands most associated with and remembered for the genre. The song is eventually thought of fondly by anyone living through that era. But ultimately, the one hit wonder band is forgotten and relegated to irrelevance by anyone who wasn’t caught up in the original wave back when it took place.
The Toadies neatly fit into this scenario. They’re regarded as a grunge one hit wonder, which has always been something bands have been ridiculed for by critics in the past. This is odd, because grunge became mainstream music for a period of time, just like many genre trends that came before and after. If a genre is going to become a mainstream fixture, as long as that lasts, then it’s going to develop one or more bands that only have one relative hit. For the Toadies, that hit was “Possum Kingdom,” which came off their 1995 album Rubberneck.
So let’s get back to that “one hit” misconception and how it relates to the Toadies’ recent headlining show at the Fillmore in Silver Spring, Maryland. During a quick jaunt around the venue before the Toadies took the stage, it was rare to hear them mentioned in a sentence without “Possum Kingdom” following quickly behind. It was also the general consensus that the song in question is the only highlight in the Toadies entire catalog. That can sometimes be true with bands that have just one recognizable hit, but that’s not always the case.
What’s more likely about a one hit wonder from a specific era is that band represents the genre and what it stood for better than some of the more well-known bands of the same era. This might sound like a backhanded compliment. But these kinds of expectations weigh on the bands critics heap praise on as they are expected to actually do something. The Toadies are a band that had their one moment in the sun and then, for the most part, were left alone by the mainstream. For better or worse, they were given an opportunity to be who they actually were away from the limelight.
There’s a certain kind of freedom when this occurs, and the Toadies capitalized on that during their show. The audience may not have been expecting it but they were in for a performance that was straight ‘90s grunge.
The Toadies, more so than a number of bands, are exactly what people think of when they think of grunge. Which is essentially an approximation of the Pixies’ faster and harder moments, sped up even further. This might not be entirely accurate but it is the image and sound the Toadies have cultivated, whether it’s intentional or not, over the years.
Their show was like being caught in time warp, which is kind of the point of seeing a band like the Toadies. At this point, they’re never going to get past that one hit wonder label. But all the same, it liberates them to do what they want on stage and surprise people with their genuinely electric presence. So long as they perform “Possum Kingdom” in the process.
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