Swallowed By The New
Toad the Wet Sprocket front man Glen Phillips admits that Swallowed By The New is a ‘breakup album’, chronicling the end of his marriage and – as the album title suggests – the beginning of a new chapter of his life.
But as you’d expect from a songwriter as interesting and cerebral as Phillips, Swallowed By The New is no ordinary breakup record.
Right from the first delicate acoustic guitar chords and plaintive vocals on the emotionally wrenching “Go”, it’s clear that Phillips’ perspective on the experience is more nuanced than that of a bitter and resentful divorcee. “Leaving Old Town” reflects on how Phillips shed the skin of his past to face a future he comes to realize is somehow optimistic after all. His sadness at witnessing the end of his lengthy marriage is eclipsed by an acceptance that maybe, just maybe, his pain is a price worth paying.
In the sublime “Grief and Praise”, Phillips explores the concept of the two emotions as mirrors of each other, and you can hear the metaphorical page turning as Phillips sings ‘Shared our sweat and our shelter, our bodies and blood / God speed and good fortune, I will miss you my love”.
Elsewhere, the dark layers of the superb “Unwritten” contrast sharply with the acoustic-based earworm melody running through the reflective wisdom of “The Easy Ones” and the jaunty “Baptistina”. “Amnesty” has an emotional intensity that belies its enormous hook and the variety continues with the beautiful string arrangements and sharp lyrics of “Leaving Old Town” which details the difficult process of picking up the pieces of a seemingly indestructible union.
Simply recorded and performed with an understated beauty by Phillips’ and a fine ensemble of guest musicians, Swallowed By The New is a sheer triumph. It deals with emotional trauma and loss in a uniquely compelling way.