Greatest Un-Hits: Burden Brothers’ “Beautiful Night” (2003)

Written by Greatest Un-Hits, Music

Of all of the at least pretty good, moderately successful alt rock bands of the mid-‘90s, the one that everybody in my high school loved was the Toadies. The Dallas band of “Possum Kingdom,” “Away,” and “Tyler” were insanely popular in suburban Portland. Many debates were held as to the real meaning behind their songs (was “Possum Kingdom” about vampires or murderers?) and videos were dissected in groups at length. When they toured with the massive Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1996, the talk of the town was whether or not you were going to the Toadies concert, not the Peppers. (I went. It was awesome.) The only other band to enjoy this sort of obsession in Portland at the time was Everclear, but that band was from Portland. Other than the Toadies being really good, and way better than Everclear, I can’t pinpoint a reason as to the inexplicable regional popularity.

So perhaps because of this strange Toadies bubble, I overstate the pent-up desire for a Toadies comeback. Still, “Possum Kingdom” was a top 5 hit on alternative radio and it even cracked the pop airplay top 40. The excellent follow-up away hit the top 30 of both rock charts, so not only the people of Dallas and Beaverton, Oregon, would buy whatever the Toadies were selling. A follow-up to Rubberneck called Hell Below/Stars Above didn’t surface until 2001, and quietly at that. So the universe had a big Toadies-shaped hole in it and needed to be filled by something that could tow the line between mainstream, straightforward, brotastic rawk and edgy ‘90s mope-ternative.

It finally happened for real in 2003-04 when Toadies front man Todd Lewis, now going by Vaden Todd Lewis, joined up with Reverend Horton Heat drummer Taz Bentley to form a new band, Burden Brothers. It might as well have been the Toadies, because Lewis’s snarling, enraged, passionate vocals are so distinctive. It was also a good time—Franz Ferdinand, the Killers, and other bands had returned alternative rock to a more quirky, ‘90s kind of place, away from the Nickelbacks and Chevelles who had douched up the genre for a half decade or so. But again, Lewis’s bands appeal to mainstream and alternative rock fans, so Burden Brothers’ near-perfect single “Beautiful Night” should have been a smash.

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It’s a moving, pretty anthem about knowing a night is so good you’re instantly nostalgic for it and that it’s all downhill from there. Carpe diem! It’s also got a bitchin’ guitar solo, which isn’t much of a thing anymore. In short, “Beautiful Night” is like “I Gotta Feeling,” but written by people who aren’t morons.

Appropriately, “Beautiful Night” got a lot of TV airplay during coverage of the Boston Red Sox’s improbable, curse-breaking World Series run in 2004. Somehow, “Beautiful Night” didn’t seize the day, and the song only made it to one chart, the Mainstream Rock chart, and stalled at #24.