Fresh off the Summerland tour (alongside Everclear, Fuel, and American Hi-Fi), the Toadies return with a brand new album in Heretics…well sort of new at least. Heretics is technically an acoustic album comprised of the band’s previous recordings as well as two new songs (“Belly of A Whale (Dry) and a cover of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”). To limit it to being an acoustic album though does it no justice at all because the Toadies have pretty much reinvented all of these songs.
As a longtime fan, I was naturally apprehensive of Heretics. The band eases you into the idea though with the new song “Belly of a Whale (Dry)” which is one of the best songs the band have ever released. It’s melodic and catchy and melancholic, just like all of the band’s best tunes. It fits very well into their body of work, but more importantly, it lets you know that the band hasn’t gone all MTV Unplugged on us. “Heart of Glass” on the other hand is a fun attempt at a cover (particularly the attempt to make it sound more like what the lyrics divulge to the listener) but it is probably the low point here for me.
However the highlights here abound. The mandolin and piano led “Tyler” is an intensely emotional reworking that makes me a little teary-eyed every time to be honest. “Send You To Heaven” makes me smile a little with its Country-tinge and suave harmonica work coupled with its snarky lyrics. “The Appeal” takes the album to a pretty raw place with its man vs. religion sentiment presented as a tender offering rather than a challenge.
“Rattler’s Revival” is most likely my favorite moment here though. Despite it being closer to the original than some of the others, the front and center lyrics shine. It’s biting televangelist presentation cross it over into darker Steve Taylor territory and it really sticks to your bones.
Yes, the band’s megahit “Possum Kingdom” is here as well. Yes, it’s still awesome. The drive is a little slower making it more sinister sounding than the original but it’s otherwise intact. You know the band has other songs that are equal to or better than this one right?
Even though I know these songs so well, everything sounds different enough that this album feels new. The spotlight on the lyrics is something that works a lot better than I initially felt it would. It’s obvious the band spent a lot of time re-working these songs to make you “feel it” in a different way. And “feel it” you will. This is hands down my Album of the Year so far.