Think what you will about the alternative rock revolution of the 1990s, but you can’t deny that it made mainstream pop and rock slightly more interesting. A mainstream radio band — the old versions of something like Maroon 5 or the Fray — could look a little bit shaggy and sound a little bit dirty. It split the difference nicely, and while bands like Gin Blossoms are often remembered as mild diversions, they actually sounded way more rocking than anybody remembers.
For the sake of shortcuts, let’s call it “Friends” rock, as just about all the bands who fall into that category (including Hootie and the Blowfish, the Rembrandts, Barenaked Ladies and the like) appeared on the soundtrack to “Friends” (and would have been enjoyed by fans of the long-running sitcom). Toad the Wet Sprocket also falls into that category, and though the California quartet (who recently reunited for a full-time return to business) didn’t do anything special on this day, it’s hard to argue with their particular form of quirkiness.
Lead by frontman and songwriter Glen Phillips, Toad the Wet Sprocket took their name from a Monty Python bit and chipped away at the rock club universe for years before scoring big with their commercial breakthrough Fear in 1991 (the same year Pearl Jam’s Ten and Nirvana’s Nevermind started making what was referred to as “college rock” into mainstream cool). “All I Want” and “Walk on the Ocean” became big hits on radio and MTV, and though Toad the Wet Sprocket graduated from small clubs to much larger venues, they maintained a heavy touring schedule, as they had developed a reputation as a killer live act.
Two more hit albums followed (1994’s Dulcinea and 1997’s Coil) before the band broke up in 1998. Ironically, one of the band’s biggest hits — the jaunty “Good Intentions” — came from the group’s 1995 b-sides compilation In Light Syrup.