Live Reviews: TAD

by Mitch Goldman


Though the word "grunge" is surely overused these days, no band fits the Seattle grunge mold more perfectly than TAD. TAD is led by the behemoth-like Tad Doyle (the TAD acronym stands for Tad's initials), an ex-butcher who writes and sings some of the catchiest, most melodic hard-rock this side of Nirvana.

TAD's early records (GOD'S BALLS, 1989, produced by Seattle stalwart Jack Endino, and the SALT LICK ep, 1990, produced by Chicago scenester Steve Albini) contained likable, if unremarkable Northwest rock. They turned a major corner with their third release, 8 WAY SANTA, in the summer of 91. Produced by Wisconsin's Butch Vig (the man behind the board for Nirvana's NEVERMIND), SANTA was released in a season of Seattle breakthrough albums: NEVERMIND, Soundgarden's BADMOTORFINGER, Pearl Jam's 10. In the midst of the Seattle hype, TAD's amazing release was lost in the shuffle, which is a damned shame; the melodic punch of tunes like "Jinx" "Flame Tavern" "3-D Witch Hunt" and "The Plague Years" was balanced by more guttural rockers like "Stumblin' Man" and "Jack Pepsi". "Pepsi", the single, is a hilarious song/story about drunk white trash guys who make the mistake of driving a pickup truck onto a frozen lake; it takes no imagination whatsover to picture Tad himself at the wheel, screaming as the truck goes "through the ice".

A major label deal with Mechanic Records produced 1993's brilliant INHALER album. Produced by J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr., INHALER took TAD's asthetic to new melodic and textural heights, without compromising any of the down-tuned guitar punch that makes TAD a true Seattle band. Songs like "Grease Box" "Throat Locust" and the undeniable "Leafy Incline" should have perched TAD on the threshold of a commercial breakthrough, especially with the mainstream assimilation of "alternative" music. Alas, INHALER fell on deaf (or soon to be deaf!) ears; even an opening stint for Soundgarden in 94 didn't push TAD into the limelight.

Earlier this year, TAD released a live-in-the-studio album called LIVE ALIEN BROADCASTS, which reprised older songs and debuted three new tunes. A mere six weeks later saw the release of their fifth studio effort INFRARED RIDING HOOD. Like INHALER, INFRARED continues to meld soaring vocal melodies with crunchy, heavy guitars. Most surprising about the effort is the loss of original lead guitarist Gary Thorstensen; Tad himself plays all the guitar parts on the record, with stunning results.

TAD's recent tour brought them to the tiny bar The Point in Atlanta, and TAD have wisely replaced Thorstensen with an unnamed guitarist, who shared both lead and rhythm chores with Tad. Their one hour set ran the gamut of their catalog, going back as far as 8 WAY SANTA for material. Tad himself was remarkably charming, smiling at the crowd, making hilarious comments, and generally looking both huge and happy. Drummer Josh Sinder made faces a la Chris Elliot, and bass player Kurt Danielson remained stoic throughout the set. (A sample of TAD's onstage banter: KURT: Hey Mike, bring us beers on stage...if you bring me a beer, I'll go down on ya! TAD: Hey, he's *serious* about that beer!)

Highlights of the set were a blistering "Jack Pepsi" opener; the single from INFRARED "Dementia" segued into "Bullhorn" from the new album; and "Jinx" from 8 WAY SANTA. Surprisingly, only two songs were played from INHALER: "Paregoric" and "Just Bought The Farm". The set seemed to veer more towards the grungier songs rather than the melodic, but the inherent balance between the two came through on songs like "Bludge" (the highlight of INFRARED) and "Halcyon Nights", also from INFRARED. The band played with a friendly intensity that was nearly jaw-dropping; the only real complaint about the show was the mix, which didn't feature Tad's singing quite loud enough.

It's too bad that more people won't see TAD on this tour, especially with the tiny places they seem to be playing; if the kids who fawn over Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots could here what a *real* Northwest rock band sounds like, they'd never listen to VITALOGY again....

SETLIST (11:32-12:26):

Jack Pepsi
Tool Marks
Halcyon Nights
Just Bought The Farm
Emotional Cockroach

Copyright 1995
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