Reviews

Tad: Busted Circuits & Ringing Ears [DVD]

Doug Sheppard

As they rose from starving Sub Pop indie artists to major label beneficiaries, one couldn’t help but think that Tad could develop into a band every bit as strong as Nirvana.


Tad

Busted Circuits & Ringing Ears

MPAA rating: N/A
Label: MVD Visual
US Release Date: 2008-02-19
Amazon
iTunes

In its time, grunge was viewed the revolutionary, galvanizing force that would deliver rock ’n’ roll from its over-sanitized '80s hair band/new wave nadir into a utopia of rebellious individualism. It did do that, or at least hair metal was virtually extinct by the time grunge had stormed the gates in 1991-92, but in retrospect, it was more like a quick act of guerilla warfare than an outright revolution.

The success of Nirvana’s Nevermind album may indeed have been the time punk finally arrived in America; unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that unlike the original wave of ’77 punks, there wasn’t much to grunge outside of Nirvana. Alice In Chains were just OK, Mudhoney and Pearl Jam were well-meaning but bland, Soundgarden was a grossly overrated ’70s derivation, and bands like Candlebox, Hole, and Paw were crap. Once Nirvana was dead, so was grunge, basically.

There were, however, worthwhile grunge bands like L7, the Melvins, the Nymphs, and the subject of this documentary, Tad. Though their albums were all somewhat patchy, Tad always had a few great songs in their arsenal. As they rose from starving Sub Pop indie artists to major label beneficiaries, one couldn’t help but think that, given the right circumstances, they could develop into a band every bit as strong as Nirvana.

Sadly, the right circumstances never came. Their “breakthrough” album for Sub Pop, 1991’s 8-Way Santa, was mired in lawsuits -- first from the unwitting stoned couple who graced its original cover, then from the makers of worst beverage known to man, who sued and even silenced Tad over a song called “Jack Pepsi” (later retitled “Jack”). Then came their solid major label debut, Inhaler (1993), for which Tad were rewarded by being dropped mid-tour in Europe with no explanation. But that wasn’t as bad as what happened on 1995’s Infrared Riding Hood, where Tad were dropped one week after its release. It probably also didn’t help that the members of Tad, including a leader known for his girth, weren’t exactly matinee idols in the looks department, either.

Busted Circuits and Ringing Ears documents all of that, plus the history of the band from its beginnings as Tad Doyle’s solo project in 1988 to full-borne quartet within a year. Most of Tad’s ex-members are interviewed, with the core of Doyle and Kurt Danielson providing most of the insights, but the DVD also includes interviews with Kim Thayil of Soundgarden, Krist Novoselic and Chad Channing from Nirvana, Mark Arm of Mudhoney, and Sub Pop cofounders Jonathan Poneman and Bruce Pavitt. The result is a well-rounded picture of Tad, from their musical roots (turns out Doyle is classically trained) to their personalities to their road shenanigans.

In some ways, this is the old rock ’n’ roll story of promise unfulfilled: Band fails to capitalize on major label money, gets discouraged, and collapses under the weight of depression and drug abuse. But in other ways, it’s not. One of the most likable aspects of this documentary -- and the members of Tad themselves -- is that they’ve gotten on with their lives. Not a tear is shed in memory of the 1989 European tour with Nirvana, where Tad got most of the ink -- yet didn’t even come close to the popularity of their tour mates in the long run.

With the filmmakers’ amusing censoring of the word “Pepsi” with a mock corporate logo over the lips of interviewees, the “Jack Pepsi” legal struggle -- undoubtedly very stressful at the time -- is recalled with snickering and sarcasm. There is no finger pointing, no harping on “what could have been” (though one interviewee, Charles Cross, does invoke the phrase), and not even the inevitable self-pity over drug abuse.

Essentially, Busted Circuits and Ringing Ears is history without the histrionics. And as commendable as the producers’ success getting interviews is, the job they did procuring footage of Tad dating from their days as a tiny club band to major label touring act is nothing short of tremendous. All of which makes this a great documentary.

7

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11
Amazon
iTunes

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image