Creative Team Building and Leadership Resources - In our Elements

Freedom’s Undefined Fire

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

This week’s Free Ride* muses on the songs of Todd Lewis, front man for the 90s alt rock post-grunge group from Texas, the Toadies, who turned 46 yesterday. Most people who listen to that genre will recognize their biggest radio hit, Possum Kingdom. I started paying attention to them when the hypnotic song, I Come From the Water kept coming up on my ITunes radio. All of their songs contain that bare-knuckles, raw, guitar driven, garage band sound that plays well on the festival circuit, and earned them opening spots for arena rockers like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Toadies’ lyrics , penned by Todd Lewis, are largely undecipherable, and are subject to a fair share of speculation among their fans. I find it interesting how many of their songs mix religious vocabulary with f bombs and less than spiritual pursuits.

A couple of songs that speak to the theme of freedom illustrate this. First, the song I Burn from their 1994 debut album, Rubberneck. Some think it’s simply a song about weed, while most conjecture a deeper meaning, about sin, about sacrifice, even about murder. Hard to say what kind of smoke is freedom, and what kind of flame is mercy. Your guess is as good as mine.

Smoke is freedom
Flame is mercy
I am free tonight
And I burn, I burn

Stoke the embers
Cleanse the spirit
A prayer in every spark

Feel the lick of bad religion
The finish and the start

In the beginning
We were smarter
‘n flame was heaven-sent

Through the ages we got stupid
Now we must repent
And I burn, I burn

Along those lines of sin and repentance, we have a second song, Little Sin, from their 2001 Hell Below/Stars Above album. Again, the freedom reference is vague, and while the subject matter is the more conventional rock and roll theme of getting the girl, it’s still less than clear what being a soul free enough to fight this little sin really means.

Swimming in pride, my sweet thing
It’s such a pretty night, for losing
Our innocence, our tenderness
It’s all been kissed away and
Now you know, you’re a free soul
And you can fight this little sin

So, there you have it, 90s music par excellence. Driving guitar, garage sound, and ambiguous lyrics. Given how conflicted our culture was in the 90s, (and remains so), it’s no wonder that the references to freedom are fuzzy at best.


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