2016 Tad Re-Releases – “God’s Balls” (1989) and “Salt Lick” (1990)

There was a time in my life, right around 1989-90, that if you asked me my favorite Seattle-area band I’d have said Tad. Timing-wise this is hard to wrap my mind around, since God’s Balls came out the same year I graduated from high school and I feel like this was during my pre-college years… but obviously that wasn’t the case. I was still hanging with my high school crew during my first few years of college, though, snowboarding and skating, so it probably all just blends together as if my senior year was actually three years long.

My self-professed love of Tad was, I think in hindsight, two-fold. First, the music is pretty fantastic. Early Tad was something that I don’t know that anyone else was doing. It wasn’t like anything I’d heard before, and quite frankly since. Loud, abrasive, aggressive, and vocally strange, with just enough structure to call them songs. If songs are like boxers who train fastidiously, sparring and working on well-laid-out combinations, Tad is the dude behind the Circle K at 2AM who will fight anyone and doesn’t even remotely care if he wins or loses. Both the boxer and the Circle K guy can be called fighters, but one is very different from the other. The other reason for my Tad-love, if I’m being perfectly honest, was probably rooted a bit in being contrarian in that sort of late-teenage way. Grunge wasn’t widely popular yet, and even within grunge circles I didn’t hear as many people talking about Tad as there were about Nirvana or Mudhoney or Soundgarden or Green River or The Fluid, so Tad sort of became one of my self-defining “things”. Saying “I’m into Tad” would generally get you a head nod from the kind of people I wanted to get head nods from at that time in my life, from members of the tribe to which I aligned myself. I used to have a Tad sticker on my car, and one day as I walked back to it in the university parking lot I saw someone had left a note on my windshield. “Crap,” I thought, “someone must have hit my car.” Nope. The note was a concisely written three words. “TAD IS RAD”. The tribe had spoken.

When I got back into vinyl I made a sort of rule that I wouldn’t buy records of albums I already had on CD, and since I had the God’s Balls / Salt Lick CD I never bothered with picking up these two. I was tempted when Sub Pop re-released them in 2016, but held firm. At least I did until last weekend. With coronavirus lock-down making it impossible to go record shopping at the local stores, the stores have turned to mail order and pick-up as options. Easy Street Records in Seattle, however, took it one step further, offering delivery. And when they announced they were going to be doing a drop off in the town adjacent to mine I decided to place an order, both to help them out and because I’m jonesing for records. I need to chase that vinyl dragon. And two of the records I decided to buy were the re-mastered re-releases of God’s Balls and Salt Lick. As you can see below Easy Street is also down with Tad, having a Tad sticker right on their van (and for people seeing this years down the road, the mask I’m wearing is due to the coronavirus recommendations not because I robbed the van… these are some seriously strange times).

God’s Balls (1989 / 2016)

They came on down for no reason,
Just for fun, lust for blood.

God’s Balls opens with what I think is Tad’s best song, “Behemoth”, a song about getting the hell beat out of you for no reason. OK, I guess the reason is just for fun, lust for blood… but that’s not a good reason. The music is as brutal as the lyrics, a sonic beating about the head that leaves you staggering and wondering why… why is this happening to me?

You will fall down, Behemoth,
Mother fucker,
You will fall down!

Grunge production guru Jack Endino did both the original God’s Balls sessions and the 2016 re-masters. My buddy Travis told me that the re-release sounded great, but I sort of shrugged my shoulders. How much production are you going to do to Tad, after all? Turns out a shit-ton – this thing is hot as hell, the vocals emerging from behind the chainsaw-like wall of fuzz and distortion that defined Tad’s sound. You can feel the pain and surprise and his voice on “Behemoth”. Tad’s voice leaps from the songs, moving out into space in front of your speakers and giving the whole thing a three dimensional feel. Honestly, it’s like listening to a different album than the one I remember. The metallic clanging that opens (and continues throughout) “Cyanide Bath” and the Sabbath-esque riffs… the weird bullhorn-like vocal parts of “Sex God Missy”… the whole thing is tremendous.

Was God’s Balls this good when I heard it when it first came out? I don’t know. But I’m falling in love with it all over again. It feels more sonically cohesive as well, not as all-over-the-place as I remembered.

Salt Lick (1990 / 2016)

While God’s Balls has my favorite Tad song on it, I prefer Salt Lick top-to-bottom. The three-song A side of “Axe To Grind”, “High On The Hog”, and “Wood Goblins” is Tad at their very best. Right form the opening Sheee’ssss allllrrriigghhhttt… of “Axe To Grind” you know you’re getting hit with a buzzsaw, the guitars unrelenting, the drums snapping at your heals like a hungry croc. And the all-consuming vocal assault that is the chorus of “Wood Goblins” is like having your head swallowed whole by an actual woodland monster, something green and nasty and uncaring. The B side is no slouch either, the quiet intro to “Glue Machine” (Talkin’ shit all day… talkin’ shit all night...) exploding outward into the song proper like a crate of TNT.

Endino also handled the re-mastering of Salt Lick, though this time he wasn’t revisiting his original work but instead the production of the also-legindary Steve Albini. This one doesn’t sound as strikingly different from the original than did God’s Balls, but that could just be ear fatigue on my part. Regardless, this still sounds great.

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.

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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.

Thomas Andrew Doyle – “Incineration Ceremony” (2017)

incinerationceremonyTo say that I don’t own much in the way of classical music would be an understatement.  The classical music in our house is limited to a couple of Three Tenors CDs and the track “Carmina Burana: Introduction” that appears on the soundtrack to the movie The Doors.  I’m pretty sure that’s it.  So in many ways, if not most, I’m not exactly the target customer for Thomas Andrew Doyle’s new album Incineration Ceremony, a modern-classical (♠) album if there every was one.  But there is one very specific reason why a guy like me, with little to no experience in classical, was intrigued enough to buy this CD as soon as it came out, and that is the man himself, Thomas Andrew Doyle.  You’re probably asking yourself, “OK, so who the hell is Thomas Andrew Doyle?”  Well friends, he put out some pretty great albums in the late 80s/early 90s, a few of which just got re-released by Sub Pop.  Because, you see, Thomas Andrew Doyle is probably best known to his music fans by his initials.  T.  A.  D.  As in Tad Doyle.  As in TAD.

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re trying to come to grips with the fact that the guy who gave us songs like “Wood Goblins,” “Sex God Missy,” and “Jack Pepsi,” the last of which was literally about getting drunk on Jack Daniels and Pepsi and driving out onto a frozen lake in a truck to do 180s before breaking through the ice and almost dying, a guy who’s most recent album Brothers of the Sonic Cloth was heavy as fuck, put out a CD of original classical compositions.  Well, he did.  Deal with it.  Or better yet, go get yourself a copy of Incineration Ceremony, because it’s pretty damn good.

This is a lot to digest.  I understand.  By you need to listen to this music.  It certainly carries a lot of the weight we’d expect from Doyle’s music, at times heavy and dense, at others sparse and more than a bit frightening.  And he knows his stuff – he studied classical and jazz in college, and he plays almost all of the instruments you hear on Incineration Ceremony, with just a bit of percussion help from Peter Scartabello on two tracks.

I’ve been a fan of Doyle’s since the Salt Lick and God’s Balls days, and was fortunate to see him once live with his post-Tad project Brothers of the Sonic Cloth.  I played the hell out of those records and 8-Way Santa, so while I’m hardly a superfan I’ve spent a fair amount of time listening to his music.  And so far I’ve played this CD about 10 times because I just can’t get it out of my head. I keep going back to it again and again, trying to unravel its mysteries while mentally floating along the surface of the somewhat gloomy soundscape Doyle creates.  I feel like there are answers there if I listen hard enough, hints to some kind of epiphany that disappear like wisps of smoke on a dark night just when you think you’ve finally found them.  Incineration Ceremony isn’t “easy” music; instead it rewards the listener for his/her attention to detail and mood.

It’s difficult for me to try to identify a favorite song on Incineration Ceremony as the album is more a cohesive whole than a simple collection of individual songs, more like one complete composition with many parts.  I guess I can pick a favorite section, and that would be the tail end of the album, with “Meditations in Null,” “Born Into Sorrow,” and the closer “Prognati Ignis Ignis” providing a sort of climax to what Doyle had been building towards with the first two parts.  If there is a message to the listener, a unifying principle or concept, it is found on that last track which opens with the words of the brilliant Carl Sagan as he waxes philosophical about all of human history having taken place on Earth, the pale blue dot, which is nothing more than a speck of dust in the vastness of the cosmos.  Sagan’s dialog launches “Prognati Ignis Ignis” into the atmosphere like a rocket, before it eventually settles into the sereneness of the cold dark void, setting the stage for Sagan to come back to us to bring it all to an end.  Fantastic.

You can listen to Incineration Ceremony at the Yuggoth Records Bandcamp page HERE, as well as purchase a digital download for just 10 bucks.  The CD itself appears to be limited to 100 copies, and it looks like they’re almost sold out, so if you want one you better get on it (because you can’t have mine!).

(♠) Yes, I realize this is an oxymoron.  But it works.

Brothers of the Sonic Cloth – “Brothers of the Sonic Cloth” (2015)

Tad Doyle was quite possibly my favorite of the first generation of Seattle’s “grunge” performers.  I played the Salt Lick / God’s Balls CD over and over and over again, and I went straight to Cellophane Square when 8-Way Santa came out to get my copy.  For whatever reason I don’t think I bought any of his subsequent albums, and by the end of the 1990s he had sort of disappeared as far as releasing his own material goes, moving on to other projects like Hog Molly and his current effort, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth.

We got to see BOTSC live way back in 2009 at Neumos in Seattle (photo below – copyright me!).  They were the second band in a three-band card headlined by none other than Mudhoney at the release party for Michael Lavine’s photo book Grunge.  When I learned that BOTSC was playing I hoped they might sneak an old Tad number or two into their set, but as Tad has made clear before, he’s done playing those songs and wants to do his new stuff.  I get it, and I respect that… but man, getting to hear him play “Behemoth” or “Wood Goblins” or “Jack Pepsi” would have been fantastic.  But such is life.  While I don’t remember a ton about their set, I do remember this:  It was heavy.  HEAVY.  HEAVY.

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I was excited to hear that BOTSC were finally going to release a full length album, Tad’s first LP in something like 15 years.  Work on it started quite a while ago – the band’s website has references to working on it going as far back as May 2012.  Unfortunately for me I completely and totally missed the first limited release early this year, which apparently sold out in just a couple of days.  But a week or so ago I spotted it on the wall at Easy Street and scooped up my vinyl copy, which is from the second printing.  It sounds like the first run was on regular black vinyl (press run unknown), while the second version was a run of 600 pressed on orange/red swirled vinyl (includes download card), which is the version I got.

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When I first looked at the back jacket I thought this was an EP because it only lists five songs, but that was before I realized how long these puppies are.  Brothers of the Sonic Cloth runs a good 38 minutes or so, with only one song, the 2:53 “Lava,” coming in at under seven minutes. Damn!  The CD version posted on Discogs lists two additional tracks I don’t see named as part of my download – “The Immutable Path” and “Outro” – so I’m not quite sure the story there.  Some sites are reporting them as CD “bonus tracks”… which seems kind of lame to me, though it’s not entirely uncommon.  I guess I just feel like if I’m stepping up and buying the record and you’re including a download card, give me all of the tracks.  Because, you know, I want to hear your music, which is why I bought your album!

Brothers of the Sonic Cloth does not disappoint – Tad and company still know how to bring the heavy.  Genre wise, call it what you will – sludge, doom, metal, grunge… or all of the above.  I’ve been reading about and listening to a bit of black metal and death metal recently, and sonically BOTSC sort of fits these molds – but without the lyrical themes related to, you know, satanism and death, so I suppose “doom” probably fits the vibe as well as anything.  The pacing is methodical and powerful – this isn’t the tightened spring ready to explode you hear in a lot of metal, but more like the way you feel after you’ve been walking seemingly forever and still have a long way to go; your pace has slowed and your aching muscles are like a weight as you force yourself to take the next step, and the next one, and the next one.  It’s a dark forest.  It’s a thick fog.  It’s a desert, and you don’t have a horse with no name.

As soon as the vocals kick in about 45 seconds into the opening track “Lava” you know what you’re in for – a full blown assault on your ears, not to mention the concussion waves pounding out of your speakers hitting you right in the sternum.  Whereas “Lava” brings the heavyweight power, “Empires of Dust” follows with pure sludge, a hundred gallons of molasses poured over your head, weighty and slow and thick with occasionally growled vocals that sound like they’re being played at 18 rpm.

“Unnamed” feels like it will be a slower number with its atmospheric minute-and-a-half long intro, but have no fear, the heavy is here.  To me this is the closest BOTSC get to old school Tad, especially the middle of the song, which could be right at home on God’s Balls.  “La Mano Poderosa” is the marathon song on BOTSC at just over 11 minutes – it’s so dense I was tempted to just try it at 45 rpm, wondering if that wouldn’t turn it into a seven minute straight heavy metal song.  “I Am” closes out the vinyl version of the album and continues the overall theme of pure density and power.

I definitely need to go back and revisit the Tad catalog and pick up some of the albums I missed along the way like Inhaler and Infrared Riding Hood.  I might need to track down the split 10″ that BOTSC did with Mico De Noche back in 2009, because this stuff is pretty killer.  Get some Tad.  Tad is rad!

“Dope-Guns-‘N-Fucking In The Streets, Volume 1-3” Compilation (1989)

Amphetamine Reptile Records is right up there with Sub Pop in terms of bad ass grunge and punk labels.  And it has unassailable punk cred, having been founded by former U-Men member Tom Hazelmyer.  They put out some killer comps, LPs, and singles over the years, and Dope-Guns-‘N-Fucking In The Streets, Volume 1-3 is one of the best.  The compilation of the first three 7″ers in the series  sports 12 different bands each contributing a track, including heavy hitters U-Men, Tad, and Mudhoney, along with some more obscure groups like Lonely Moans, Halo of Flies, and The Thrown Ups.  It’s a great mix of bands that are all over the grunge and punk scene, but have just enough in common to hold the whole thing together.

I found this nugget from 1989 at Cheapo Records in Minneapolis, the home of Amphetamine Reptile, for what I thought was a very reasonable price.  I was initially struck by the cover, which stylistically reminded me a lot of something by Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel (which may say more about my brain than it does about the art itself…). The combination of the label’s rep along with the presence of some great Seattle bands made the purchase an easy decision.

Side A opens with a totally bad-ass tune by the U-Men, “Bad Little Woman”, a song that alternates between muddy, slow grunge and fast punk.  Helios Creed gives us the most way out there track with “The Last Laugh”, which is pretty much impossible to describe… maybe psychedelic punk?  I don’t know, but I’m probably way too sober to truly appreciate it in all its glory.  “Action Candy” by Surgery is a surprise grunge juggernaut with that driving, relentless, tuned down sound that I love.

Side B starts off intense and aggressive with “Insecticide Stomp” by Halo of Flies before kicking in with the killer Mudhoney track “Twenty Four”.  The rest is solid as well, particularly God Bullies’ “Tell Me” and, of course, my main man Tad who can’t help but be huge and awesome.  No one lays it down like Tad.  No one.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m having a late 1980s flashback and seriously craving a tallboy.