Not only did Fear yield the Top 40 breakthrough hit “All I Want,” but it also marked the emergence of a more refined Toad the Wet Sprocket. A far cry from their jangle pop, garage band sound of old, this album is full of smart and catchy pop/rock songs brought to life by four great musicians.
Be it a tale of boyhood mischief (“Is It for Me”) or a question of faith (“Pray Your Gods”), Glen Phillips shows himself to be one of the most literate and complex singer/songwriters around, layers of hidden subtext pouring from both his pen and voice. In fact, one of the finest lines ever found in a fare-thee-well song appears in “In My Ear”: “Never meant half of the things that I said to you. So you know, there’s a half that might be true.” Enough said.
The rest of the quartet — drummer Randy Guss, bassist/keyboardist Dean Dinning, and guitarist Todd Nichols — have merged together musically, defining what it really means to be a band. Their juxtaposition of accordions and mandolins against hard-hitting electric guitars amplifies the blend of ease and urgency that plays out from song to song, from the acoustic meandering of “Walk on the Ocean” to the aggressive commentary on rape in “Hold Her Down.” The last tune, “I Will Not Take These Things for Granted,” could have easily fallen into the abyss of cliché, but in Phillips’ hands, it stands as a humble and poignant tribute to life’s riches.
With not a single weak song, wonderfully engaging performances, and amazing sonic precision, Fear is a wonderful welcome into the house of Toad.