Dead Herring – “Drowned In Rock” (2017)

deadherringdrownedinrockI enjoyed Dead Herring’s debut cassette Tuna In Trouble (2016), so it was exciting to hear that their newest effort would be released on vinyl.  And they don’t disappoint, mixing hardcore and powerviolence into a wall of noise that will take the paint off your walls.  It’s not all brute speed – sometimes it’s heavy and slow like on “Sólaranus”, but even then the vocals bring the angst and put a razor’s edge on the whole thing.  After cramming 13 tracks on the A side, the B side is given over to one 15+ minute Sabbath-esque doom jam, which might be the most killer part of the record.

Digitally Drowned In Rock is available HERE.  I’m not sure how hard it will be to track down the vinyl as it doesn’t appear to be offered on Bandcamp, so good luck with that.

Tad – “Quick and Dirty” (2018)

Nestled up here in the damp and green Pacific Northwest it would have been easy for what later became grunge to have gone unnoticed.  After all it’s not like Seattle was known for much musically, at least not at the national level.  As the 1980s came to a close it would have been Jimi Hendrix, Heart, and maybe Queensrÿche, but that’s probably about it.  Nirvana, of course, changed all that, though as I’ve written before they weren’t the band that many of us thought would break.  As the 1980s came to a close, the “Big 4” Seattle bands, at least among the people I was hanging out with up here, were Mudhoney, Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Tad.  And as much as I was a huge Tad fan from the first time I picked up the 1990 combined release Salt Lick / God’s Balls and was in love with their improbably sound, all hard edges and raspy, spit-flying vocals about wood goblins and getting the hell beat out of you by a leather-strap-weilding group of thugs, I never thought that Tad would have much commercial appeal.  But I was hooked.


So it came as a surprise when I learned a week or so ago that a new Tad album was coming out on Record Store Day.  Sure, Tad Doyle had put out other albums as part of Brothers of the Sonic Cloth and most recently a dark classical disc called Incineration Ceremony under his full name Thomas Andrew Doyle.  But when I saw Brothers of the Sonic Cloth perform a few years ago they didn’t play any old Tad songs, and band itself hadn’t put out a full length release since 1995s Infrared Riding Hood (their last single was in 1999).  Fortunately for us, however, there were some old Tad recordings out there hidden away, and as a result we were treated to the very limited (900 copies) Quick and Dirty on Record Store Day 2018.  As an added bonus for me personally, while I was in line at Seattle’s Easy Street Records waiting to make my purchases store owner Matt Vaughan, who earlier in the morning served bacon to those of us waiting in line, shouted “Who’s got the new Tad?  Anyone out there got Tad?”  My arm went up, as did my buddy Travis’, and Matt came over to us and gave us each a free copy of the bonus 12″ that was included when folks pre-bought all three of the recent Sub Pop Tad re-releases.  It’s got all the bonus songs that were included on the download cards for those records and was a very cool free score.  Thanks Matt!

Side A of Quick and Dirty includes six tracks the band recorded in the studio back in 1999, songs that probably would have been part of Tad’s next studio album.  The B side has five live tracks recorded at Seattle’s infamous Crocodile Cafe, home to so many amazing shows back in the day, and includes some early songs like “Behemoth”, “Jinx”, and “Delinquent”.  This is the perfect kind of thing to come out on RSD – a combo of previously unreleased studio and live songs, not just another repackaged super glossy colored vinyl limited edition sparkly unicorn $50 collector’s edition.  This is Tad, kids.  It’s supposed to be a bit dirty.  It’s supposed to stick to your shoes.

And man, if the studio stuff is any indication we’d have been in store for a pretty killer full-length from Tad to close out the millennium.  “Mummified Cop” pounds you like a hammer with it’s start-and-stop riffs, and the boys don’t easy up over the next five songs.  “Corbomite Maneuver” is heavy as hell, but still finds room for some pretty stellar guitar soloing.  But as much as I was excited for, and enjoyed, hearing some new songs, I was even more stoked for the live material.  And it didn’t disappoint.  The live stuff is heavy, and I do mean heavy, like a plodding giant crushing the village of your mind under it’s riff-like feet.  This is Tad at their best – sludgy.  When they rip into my all-time Tad favorite “Behemoth” it almost feels like you’re experiencing the assault described in the song (Leather straps / Crack in my head) as the torrents of sound drive into your brain.

Quick and Dirty was a great RSD 2018 treat.  Let’s hope there’s more old-school early Seattle grunge hidden away in the vaults somewhere just waiting to be released.

Red Beat – “Machines In Motion” (1979)

redbeatmachinesThis 12″ from 1979 caught my eye the other day over at Seattle’s Daybreak Records, and I’m glad it did.  I can’t tell you much about Red Beat, but the three songs on Machines In Motion sound like The Clash at their most dub… and then dubbed some more.  It’s hard to believe this is from 1979 – it feels like something from a few years later that On-U Sound might have put out.

Wham! – “Make It Big” (1984)

whammakeitbigMake It Big came out in 1984, when MTV was changing the way young people experienced music.  Some of the greatest pop music of all time came out in the mid-1980s, and Wham! were certainly part of that pop renaissance.  But it wasn’t all wine and roses and parachute pants, because if you were a boy of a certain age (middle school-ish) in certain parts of the country (like where I lived in South Carolina) publicly admitting you liked Wham! would earn you at the best ridicule, and at the worst a beating, on the school bus.  These were different times and the perceived effeminateness of some pop artists, especially those from the UK like Wham! and Duran Duran somehow managed to antagonize a certain ugly undercurrent in society that made them unacceptable to like if you were a boy, or at least if you were a boy who didn’t want to get his ass kicked at school or lacked the confidence to not give a fuck.  Unfortunately I lacked that confidence and had to hide my Duran Duran and Prince cassettes when my friends came over.

Fortunately being an adult means you can not give two shits about what people think about your musical taste.  And let’s be clear here – Wham! was brilliant.  So don’t ever call Make It Big a guilty pleasure, call it a genius pop album and revel in its beauty.  It may have taken me over 30 years to get around to listening to it start-to-finish, but it’s never too late to experience something this great.

Rass – “Andstaða” (2005)

rassBy 2005 it had been a solid 10 years since the metal band HAM had put out a studio album, the last of which was (at that time) 1995s Dauður Hestur.  A pair of live CDs hit the market in 2001, but for all intents and purposes it seemed clear that HAM was a thing of the past by the middle of the first decade of the 21st century. (♠)  So what are a bunch of rockers to do when their rock band is no more?  Well, make another rock band, of course.  Or, if you’re so inclined, an old-school punk band.  And that’s exactly what HAM veterans Arnar Geir Ómarsson, Flosi Þorgeirsson, and Óttarr Proppé did in 2005 – form a band called Rass (“Ass”), put out an album called Andstaða (“Opposition”), take pot-shots at the old families that rule the nation’s fishing industry with an iron fist, play a few shows, then disband.  Which is all pretty punk rock.

I only learned of Rass’ existence recently while doing some research for a blog on the new Dr. Spock album. Andstaða is quite difficult to find, even in Iceland, typically selling online in the $50+ range.  Fortunately for me I was putting together an order with my friends over at Lucky Records and they had a copy, so a few weeks ago it arrived at my door.  And I’ve been playing the hell out of it ever since.

There’s a certain something, a sonic undercurrent, that to my ears defines the early Icelandic punk sound.  I can’t put it into words, but much like Potter Stewart once famously said about obscenity, “I know it when I see it” (♣), or in this case hear it.  What’s interesting to me about Andstaða, however, is that it lacks this element.  In fact, Andstaða is about the closest thing to first generation UK punk that I’ve ever heard come out of Iceland, especially “Lífsflótti”.  Of course, there are still clearly HAM influences here, not to mention a dose of Dr. Spock on “Pönk Familie”, which makes sense given that vocalist Óttarr Proppé is in all three bands.

At 12 songs and 20 minutes, Rass get in and out quick.  And it’s just the right amount for me.  Allegedly there were only 500 copies pressed of Andstaða, so if you see one you better grab it – you might not get the chance again.

(♠)  And remained that way until their phenomenal come-back album Svik, Harmur Og Dauði in 2011.

(♣)  Potter was a justice on the United States Supreme Court when he wrote that infamous phrase in a concurring opinion for the case of Jacobellis v. Ohio in 1964.  The suit arose from a movie theatre being fined for showing the French film The Lovers, which local authorities deemed pornographic.  Potter’s full quote was “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description {of hardcore pornography]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”