It starts with a scream, and you know that Texas” premiere rock band, the Toadies, are back. 7 years after their multi-platinum debut, Rubberneck, Hell Below/Stars Above has finally arrived. The second track, and debut single, “Push the Hand,” is classic Toadies from Lisa Umbarger”s thumping bass to Todd Lewis” wailing vocals. Some tracks, like “Little Sin,” are distinctly reminiscent of Badmotorfinger-era Soundgarden. It”s very nice to finally hear a band that is satisfied playing rock “n” roll without rapping or wearing make-up, or both (just for the record, Crazytown blows).

Paul Wong
Kyle Chandler and Joan Cusack are too cute for TV in ABC”s “”About Joan.”” Awwwww.<br><br>Courtesy of ABC

If the Toadies ring a very distant bell, but you still can”t place them, think back to 1994 (you remember that long ago, don”t you?), when a little single called “Possum Kingdom” dominated the radio waves. Still don”t remember it? “Be my angel/Do you wanna die/I promise you, I will treat you well/My sweet angel/So help me Jesus.” There, now you”ve got it. The differences between the two albums are not many lots of grinding power chords, great vocals and lyrics, and excellent musicianship fill both. The main difference this time around is that the band seems more willing to take chances. They use a piano, for instance. Possum Kingdom was a loud album from start to finish, whereas HB/SA holds some mellow moments, like “Pressed Against the Sky” and “Dollskin.” This is probably due to the fact that while Rubberneck was almost completely written by Lewis, HB/SA is a much more collaborative effort. The result is a sound that is both refreshing and familiar.

Buy this record.

Grade:B+

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