Tonic
Tonic


4.0
excellent

Review

by Nosferatwo USER (43 Reviews)
May 4th, 2010 | 17 replies | 8,016 views


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Sometimes the past is exactly where we want to be.

5 of 5 thought this review was well written

Time makes all the difference. For some bands, time erodes their legacy, the music feeling more and more like a remnant of a bygone era. Songs become fossils, and bands that once dominated the charts are relegated to playing their hits on a nostalgia circuit, reminding fans of a time long since passed.

The 90's produced throngs of such bands, the early post-grunge movement spawning any number of faceless groups whose music stands the test of time only as a reminder of the trends of the day. Tonic was thought to be one of those bands, their debut album Lemon Parade lumped in with the rest of the dour rock music that found its way on the radio. But they were never a post-grunge band, their sound more derived from the classic rock of the 70's than anything that came out of Seattle. They left any comparison behind with their second album, Sugar, but aside from lead single "You Wanted More", they had already been left behind. Head On Straight followed to little fanfare, a stubborn outlier in the new age of rock music.

After a seven year hiatus in which lead singer Emerson Hart put out a songwriter-oriented solo album, Cigarettes And Gasoline, Tonic has returned to the same form that found them out of place when they stepped away from the spotlight. Instead of chasing trends, Tonic is resolved to continue producing tightly constructed pop music filtered through their classic rock sensibilities. That means that Tonic is exactly the record you would expect it to be, and it is destined to be another forgotten gem from one of the best bands to come of age in the 90's.

Hart's solo album wasn't much of a departure from the three Tonic records, but it enabled him to explore new aspects of his songwriting, stretching away from the rigid boundaries of pop radio to incorporate more moods and textures to his songs. That record proves to be the blueprint for Tonic, the band taking on the personality of his solo album. Tonic is the band's most diverse album, swinging between driving guitar songs and slower, more introspective numbers.

"Release Me" makes the opening statement, a perfect reflection of who the band was, and who they still are. Hart's acoustic guitars sing as his structural lyrics hearken back to their two biggest hits. When the electric guitar take charge with their two note riff leading into the chorus, the feeling is unmistakably Tonic. "Daffodil" immediately changes the tone, with bouncing acoustic guitars and a weeping slide setting up Hart's falsetto chorus.

The album keeps throwing curves, alternating electric-drenched rockers like "I Want It To Be", "Bigger Than Both", and "Torn To Pieces" with quieter moments like the lilting ballad "Nothing Is Everything", the uplifting "Where Do I Fit", and the cascading melody of the folk-inspired closer "She Goes Down". Every song is an entity unto itself, a collection of unique songs that hang together because of the band's signature sound. Even when taking on unfamiliar material, like the Smiths-influenced "Precious Little Bird", Tonic sounds like no one but Tonic. The song's churning chords and circular melody are new, but strangely familiar.

Guitarist Jeff Russo is the unsung hero, filling the songs with textures and fills that breathe life into the compositions. His playing is subtle, giving melodic backdrops to the chord progressions, never leading the music but giving strength to the arrangements in ways few bands are able to achieve these days. He understands his role as a player, embracing the ability to transform the songs through the details, making his presence felt even when in the back of the mix. When he does step forward, taking a solo in "Where Do I Fit", he plays a stinging melody completely bereft of technical showboating, filled to the brim with emotional playing.

Tonic is an album that sums up the band's career in 42 minutes. It feels like a tapestry woven from the fabric of all three previous albums, but the unmistakable descendant of Sugar. The albums are kindred spirits, mosaics of pop sounds cobbled together to show the versatility of song.

Time has dimmed the spotlight shining on Tonic, but has done little to change who they are or what they do. From album to album they have slowly lost the looser elements that made them a rock band, trimming and tightening their songs into sharp statements, turning into purveyors of song-craft the likes of which are rarely appreciated. Tonic may not be their best album, but it is a welcome return, and a loud opening statement to a new phase of their career.



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user ratings (8)
Chart.
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
BigHans
May 4th 2010



26455 Comments


Interesting. I'm probably going to see them live this summer at an outdoor fesitval I go to every year. Might have to check this out, I loved the Lemon Parade.

Inveigh
May 4th 2010



24190 Comments


^are you referring to Summerfest, BigHans?

Digging: Symptom - Caverns Of Katabasis

BigHans
May 4th 2010



26455 Comments


No, its called Moondance Jam. Its an annual classic rock/hair metal/80's pop/hard rock mullet fest located in bumfuck Northern Minnesota. I live for it.


Inveigh
May 4th 2010



24190 Comments


that sounds like the greatest festival ever created. the name alone is pure genius.

BigHans
May 4th 2010



26455 Comments


http://www.moondancejam.com/

Inveigh
May 4th 2010



24190 Comments


dude, thursday, friday and saturday all look fucking awesome. assuming there will be copious amounts of brew.

BigHans
May 4th 2010



26455 Comments


That there is, although its fucking expensive as hell.

Prolapse
May 4th 2010



4370 Comments


that festival sounds awesome

BigHans
May 4th 2010



26455 Comments


I saw pretty much all of these from 2003 on.

http://www.moondancejam.com/bands.html#15

Inveigh
May 4th 2010



24190 Comments


beer prices can't be worse than festivals here in the Chi (Pitchfork, Lolla, etc.) at least i wouldn't think so

BigHans
May 4th 2010



26455 Comments


Its basically 4 bucks for a can.

Inveigh
May 4th 2010



24190 Comments


ouch. at Lolla 2006 it was $6 for a draft beer, I believe it was 16 oz, so only a little more expensive.

Willie
Moderator
May 5th 2010



15774 Comments


I liked their first two albums but I think it's too late for me to be open to a third. Good review.

Digging: Teramaze - Esoteric Symbolism

EVedder27
May 5th 2010



6088 Comments


Good review man, was thinking about reviewing this, but couldn't find this yesterday when I searched the internet. May give a listen at some point.

JetpackMusic
May 19th 2010



6 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The first three songs on this album are just great. Tonic is back.

Jim
August 5th 2010



5110 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

great review. this album isn't amazing, but it has a real warmth and is far more honest than their two previous releases.

i agree that jeff russo plays a big part here. his soft meanderings in nothing is everything are proof enough of that.

Killerhit
March 15th 2014



4473 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I neeeed it NOWWWWW my days and my nights are looooong



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