The Lead 'Toad' Leaps into a New Solo Career ; Former Toad the Wet Sprocket Singer Phillips Writes Darkly Comic Songs with Jaunty Exteriors

By Stephen Humphries writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, June 15, 2001 | Go to article overview

The Lead 'Toad' Leaps into a New Solo Career ; Former Toad the Wet Sprocket Singer Phillips Writes Darkly Comic Songs with Jaunty Exteriors


Stephen Humphries writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


It's not unusual for musicians to list their favorite human- rights organizations and charities in a CD booklet, but Glen Phillips's endorsement of Citizens for Midwifery on his latest release, "Abulum," is surely a first among rock stars.

Penning personal CD liner notes is one of the few luxuries afforded by starting a new solo career: Phillips had been the lead singer of the now-disbanded Toad the Wet Sprocket, a band that scored early '90s hits like "Walk on the Ocean," "All I Want," and "Fall Down."

These days Phillips is touring in a one-man acoustic show that blends new songs and old Toad the Wet Sprocket numbers. On the road, he carries with him only a copy of "The Lord of the Rings" and a camcorder.

In between playing some of his new songs in a Monitor recording studio recently (visit www.csmonitor.com to see video of the recording session and hear interview clips), the songwriter explained that his former band agreed to split, because they felt they'd gotten stale. But starting over was difficult, as Phillips discovered when he sent acoustic demos to record companies.

"Everybody came back and said, 'male singer-songwriters aren't happening,' " Mr. Phillips says. "I'd felt entitled. I'd had this career and took for granted that I'd be able to start off where I'd left off." Then, characteristically switching from contemplativeness to trademark cheeky humor, he adds, "I found that I had to work for a living like everyone else."

It was only when Phillips stopped feeling desperate about whether he'd fit into the current musical climate that things began to move forward, he says. He recorded the album in his home garage, and it has since been picked up by Brick Red Records.

Many of the stripped-down songs on the album have darkly comic lyrics beneath their jaunty exterior. It was pianist Ben Folds of Ben Folds Five who turned Phillips on to the music of Randy Newman, which, he says, changed the way he writes songs.

"I like stuff that's really subtle, but there's this razor wit that no one who's yelling at you could really achieve," he says.

In one song on his new album, "Men Just Leave," Phillips playfully conjures up images of a deadbeat dads convention where fathers on the run meet in the desert and talk about other famous dads who've abandoned pregnant women. …

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