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In the music spotlight: Toad the Wet Sprocket

Toad the Wet Sprocket | SUPPLIED PHOTO

For casual listeners, Toad the Wet Sprocket is trapped in the amber of the ‘90s. Fans, however, champion a singular combination of talent that is currently in full flush. The Southern California quartet made an indelible mark in 1991 with its third album “fear,” bucking prevailing trends including the ascendant grunge scene. The shimmering acoustic pop of “All I Want” pushed the band into the top 20. Released as the album’s fourth single more than a year following the release of “fear,” “Walk on the Ocean” was an unlikely presence in the upper reaches of the Hot 100 with its waltz-time rhythm, Dean Dinning’s fretless bass, and Todd Nichols’ folk-infused acoustic guitars. Nonetheless, the song’s yearning lyric about the bittersweet memory of unfulfilled promises and Glen Phillips’ sublime vocal melody returned Toad to the top 20 in early 1993, when radio was dominated by Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.”

The band continued to release albums and tour through the ‘90s, until breaking up in 1998. Phillips began an ongoing solo career and found recurring partners in Nickel Creek. Nichols, Dinning and drummer Randy Guss served stints on stage and in the studio with Lapdog. Toad the Wet Sprocket reunited for occasional projects including support of the Rape Crisis Center in its hometown of Santa Barbara and high-profile dates with Counting Crows. In the late 2000s, the band announced that it had officially resumed.

2013’s “New Constellation” album didn’t scale the lofty heights of “fear,” but it found the revitalized band’s chemistry finely tuned with sharp playing and winsome writing. Songs like “California Wasted” returned to the band’s melancholy pop strengths, spinning Pacific Coast imagery, regret and self-doubt into a sadly beautiful and strangely uplifting scene. The group’s latest work includes the crashing jangle of prior Phillips solo track “Finally Fading” among the half-dozen songs collected on 2015’s “Architect of the Ruin.”

The band that began in 1986 as a group of California high school kids with a love of Monty Python sketch comedy is now composed of seasoned veterans with the shared experience of music industry highs and lows. Their bond and creative impulse remain strong. Toad the Wet Sprocket will prove its mettle while revisiting Park West for the first time in nearly ten years.

* Toad the Wet Sprocket, with Megan Slankard, 8 p.m., Aug. 18, Park West, 322 W. Armitage. $40 (ages 18+);