Music

Tad: God's Balls / Salt Lick / 8-Way Santa

Photo: Charles Peterson

Heavier than heavy, Tad is back with a trio of deluxe editions of their first three Sub Pop releases.


Tad

God’s Balls

Label: Sub Pop
US Release Date: 2016-11-04
UK Release Date: 2016-11-04
Amazon
iTunes

Tad

Salt Lick

Label: Sub Pop
US Release Date: 2016-11-04
UK Release Date: 2016-11-04
Amazon
iTunes

Tad

8-Way Santa

Label: Sub Pop
US Release Date: 2016-11-04
UK Release Date: 2016-11-04
Amazon
iTunes

Listening back now, it’s very clear why Tad did not find themselves immediately picked up by a major label in the vast pilfering of the Seattle music scene in the early 1990s. Of course album titles like God’s Balls and 8-Way Santa didn’t help their case any. Not that they were all that concerned. In fact, quite the contrary as the members of Tad unapologetically went about their heavier-than-heavy business, delivering one pummeling assault after another. It’s a sound so viscerally elephantine as to virtually defy description short of simply being forced to describe their sound to the uninitiated as, “Tad sounds like Tad.”

But doing so is something of a cop-out as the band did indeed possess its own distinct brand of heaviness and visual presence (a proudly blue collar/white trash/lumberjack aesthetic) that separated them from their more tuneful fellow Seattleites, nearly all of whom appeared far more groomed and ready to make the jump from the underground to the mainstream. In Tad’s case, the underground was their domain; a cavernous space within which to create the greatest of sonic poundings, mercilessly pulverizing the competition. In short, no other Seattle band managed the same visceral heft as Tad; what they lacked in memorable songs they more than made up for in the sheer mass of the music they laid to tape.

Having taken their name from frontman Tad Doyle, perhaps one of the most physically imposing singers of all time at well over 300 pounds (something he seems well aware of in the sideways smile flashed above hairy crossed arms bigger than most people’s legs), the band proved time and again they bashed about to the Neanderthal beat of their own drum. One of the first bands to sign to Sub Pop, Tad released their debut, God’s Balls in 1989. Reissued here in a “deluxe edition", the original album is augmented with three bonus tracks. Not that it makes all that much difference. If you’ve heard one Tad song you’ve pretty much heard them all. Far from a backhanded compliment, this instead is a testament to the band’s steadfast adherence to a particular musical vision even in the face of potential commercial success as Seattle gradually became a musical hotbed.

Instead, Tad delivered one colossal sonic assault after another, none of which allowed much time for the listener to catch their breath or regain consciousness following the initial blast of opening track “Behemoth.” With its unison scream of “Motherfucker!” scattered throughout the song’s chorus, Tad presents themselves as a gleefully uncommercial act hell-bent on remaining as such. Relying on legendary Seattle producer Jack Endino to help translate their monolithic live sound to record, the band set about doing what they do best -- namely channeling ‘70s heavy metal into something even heavier and more oppressive than any of their forebears could’ve imagined. It’s a massive opening statement that helped set a stylistic precedent from which they would mainly refuse to deviate for the remainder of their career.

The Salt Lick EP appeared in 1990, further streamlining the Tad aesthetic into blisteringly short bursts of agro-metal heaviness, this time courtesy of Steve Albini. While grunge has never been a particularly appropriate sobriquet for the bands to which it has repeatedly been applied, it seems more than fitting for Tad’s grimy, angry, dirty sound. Here it is as if the band’s sound had been forged somewhere in the depths of the wooded Pacific Northwest -- perhaps accompanied by a host of Sasquatches -- where it required absurdly heavy guitars and drums played at maximum volume merely to compete with Doyle’s throat-shredding, all-consuming bellowing. “My name’s Tad and you’re stuck with me!” he yells unapologetically before launching into “Damaged", perhaps one of the most appropriate song titles on Salt Lick. Here Doyle unleashes a series of unhinged, guttural wails as the guitars tumble and fraction in his wake. It’s an intense 2:46, but serves as an almost note-perfect distillation of all Tad had to offer.

1991’s 8-Way Santa -- here presented with the revised cover, the original having featured a topless woman who, upon learning of her non-sanctioned image plastered on the cover understandably sued – again finds the band in the hands of yet another producer. Having worked their way through the same lineup of producers then label mates Nirvana would source in the coming years, Tad enlisted the help of Butch Vig to further hone their hefty sound. There’s a marked difference -- a greater warmth -- that can be heard immediately on 8-Way Santa’s opening track, “Jinx". With Vig, the band managed to create an album that could almost be thought of as accessible, even spawning something of a hit single in the shrill feedback and rumbling bass of the largely spoken-word “Jack Pepsi".

Here the fully embrace the lumberjack/white trash image as Doyle details an ill-fated night of driving a truck with a buddy on a frozen lake under the influence of Jack Daniels and Pepsi. It’s a harrowing tale told with a raspy matter-of-factness that manages to make the idea of being trapped underwater in a pickup truck all the more claustrophobically unsettling. It's with 8-Way Santa that the band delivers their most traditionally grunge-sounding album, all massive walls of distorted guitars and Vig’s sympathetic production. At well over an hour in its expanded form, it’s an exhausting listen that can take its toll on the listener.

But that's exactly what should be expected when coming to Tad; none of the other Seattle bands were even remotely as bombastically heavy, willfully non-mainstream and, in the end, as revered. They may have been mostly left behind in the wake of the grunge explosion, but in doing so they ensured their legacy would remain virtually unscathed, a genuine relic of a bygone era. With these three reissues, Sub Pop has provided a great service to all those in need of concrete slabs of sound hurled from the depths of the darkest forest in the Pacific Northwest. If Sasquatch were a music fan -- which it may well be, who can say? -- Tad would be its band of choice. What more compliment do you need than that?

7

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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