C. Recommends: “Stories I Tell” by Toad the Wet Sprocket

And I wasn’t looking for Heaven or Hell
Just someone to listen to stories I tell

fear was the third record for Toad the Wet Sprocket, released in 1991. And it was a smash, certified Platinum, with two hit singles (“All I Want” and “Walk on the Ocean”). I remember visiting my best friend while he was down in Tucson for college, drinking Keystones and devouring Jello Shots in his dorm room. His roommate popped in fear and I was like “yeah, cool. I know this song” (the opening track is the aforementioned “Walk on the Ocean”).

For the most part, the record is pretty innocuous. The two singles have great pop melody to them. But I was really into metal at that time, so fear overall didn’t offer the visceral kick in the throat I was listening to at home. Of course, that isn’t to say I was deaf to a great song. And Glen Phillips sure can sing, man.

“Stories I Tell” is a gem near the end of the record, the true star of the set. It starts off with a repeating singular riff on guitar, almost hypnotic as it echoes in otherwise quiet space. It has a gradual build through the first three verses. And it is completely void of a chorus. The only change is in a bridge a few minutes into the song:

Do we ever wonder?
And did you ever care….

There’s something incredibly affecting in Phillips’ vocals, in his wonder if anyone is listening to him. I think all artists share in that wonder. I know I do: sitting behind a screen, writing words for you to read. Or behind an amplifier, writing songs for you to hear. Inherently, when our art leaves our own existence, and it’s out there for others to experience, we can only wonder.

Is someone out there listening to our stories?

Now, I’ve heard musicians say things like: “My music is for me. I dont care what others think of it.” To that I say fuck you, kind sir. Because by playing a song for someone else you desire that person’s thoughts on your work. The same goes with sharing a poem, or a canvass piece. We create art for myriad reasons. But we share art for one: revelation.

We want people to know what we’re capable of, what geniuses we possess. So once it is out there in the ether, then what? Will they understand the artist’s quintessence? Or would they even care to?

Now I wasn’t looking for wreaths or for bells
Just someone to listen to stories I tell

(Song recommendation by C. Aloysius Mariotti)

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