The ever-mutable Aussie scene is constantly producing bands that seem to spring up for an album or two, only to be dissolved by the players’ other obligations and conflicting schedules. That only adds to the charm of records that act as brief documents of likeminded friends whose musical interests collide and careen into brittle pop gems. Not to assume that The Toads aren’t in it for the long haul, but they come from similar backgrounds as bright burners like Smarts, School Damage, and Total Control — exploding into view with a collision of punk sweat, post-punk rhythms, and an acid wit. The band culls members of The Shifters, The Living Eyes and Parsnip. The members originally convened to bang out a few songs for a 7”, but the release grew to a full album as the songs piled up each time they got together.
The Toads diverge from some of the expectations of their individual histories. While there’s a bit of the snarl that comes stock with Anti-Fade forerunners, the band’s sound is more expansive than many of their peers. Nodding rhythms and chewed wire guitars resolve into strums, horn stabs, flutes, and squiggled keys. There’s’ a sense of unease among the band’s lyrics — struggling with banality, inequality, growing anxiety, and existential drift. A more sour-hearted record than many of their contemporaries, the record delights in the dour, pouring out its ounce of punk sweat, but spilling over into ambitious arrangements that make this a fun album to pick apart over repeated listens. Here’s hoping that the forces that forged In The Wilderness keep up. I’d love to see The Toads keep it running, even if I know that loving Aussie pop sometimes means letting go.