It’s Tuesday, which means another episode of Hugs and Kisses, a weekly column from UK-based music writer Mr. Everett True, author of Nirvana: The Biography (da Capo Press)–one more fucking book about one of the most overrated bands of the Nineties–and publisher of Plan B Magazine, a title dedicated to writing about music (and media) with barely a nod towards demographics.
As we’ve told you before, True is famous/infamous for all sorts of stuff. He’s the guy who gets “credited” with introducing Kurt to Courtney, possibly “inventing grunge,” and, on the eighth day, giving us riot grrrl. Okay, one of those previous statements was a lie. — Yr friendly blog host
THIS WEEK: Behemoths of ROCK
It was he who invented–well, if not invented, personified–grunge. (Sorry to dwell on this, but it seems that the Pacific Northwest has come back to haunt me in recent years.) Listen to the first track on 1988’s Sub Pop 200–the three-LP compilation that helped define Seattle and its emerging music scene (with its booklet featuring photographer Charles Peterson’s hyper-focused highlights stolen from a sea of chaos, and production mainly courtesy of Jack Endino’s heavy, heavy–and cheap–monster Reciprocal Sound). It’s ‘Sex God Missy’–demented, wailing, thunderous as all hell, the missing link between Killdozer’s tempestuous Midwestern serial killing visions and something far more arcane. Grunge, not viewed through the filter of punk but suburban metal (the only time a band was thus able to transcend its roots…look at the failures, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Smashing Pumpkins et al). It was a song by Tad, the band featuring monstrous Boise, Idaho graduate Tad Doyle and guitarist Kurt Danielson (“the original Seattle Kurt”–everyone) (they were supposed to have met at a Christian pot luck dinner): monstrous in girth and in sound. It absolutely (and we’re talking 1988 here) defined grunge so perfectly no one really bothered afterwards (um, except for the zillions of mostly LA bands and A&R men who chanced by Endino’s studios in the years to follow).
Leap forward four years: Tad’s been thrown off Nirvana’s final US tour, the In Utero tour for bad-mouthing Courtney Love in print, after what–one date? No dates? It would have been quite a deal if it wasn’t for the bad luck that had seemingly plagued Tad since about day one. They got Killdozer producer Butch Vig into the studio to record their second album, the wired, demented and (sometimes) subtly menacing 8-Way Santa (it’s a type of blotter acid), only to see that album’s release threatened upon release with a lawsuit featuring its sleeve’s unwitting stars (a found photo of fellow having a good feel of a lady’s breasts – one of the pair had become a born-again Christian and objected to such off-hand treatment of her assets) and for Nirvana to steal their producer for Nevermind and…whoa. Is it time for corporate sell-outs again? Speaking of which, MTV rejected the video to Best Single Released By A Grunge Band Ever Full Stop, ‘Wood Goblins’, as being “too ugly” (was it the chainsaw? Tad’s girth? The music?) and another single (‘Jack Pepsi’) got aborted after a miscreant at the record company alerted the soft drinks company to possible copyright infringement and Sub Pop got threatened with the prospect of losing millions of dollars in revenue, this at a time when they were still pressing up T-shirts reading, “What part of ‘We have no money’ don’t you understand?”
(Tad sort of had a genius for titles. Their debut 1989 album was called God’s Balls.) (And they sort of had a genius for finding ace producers as well. Their 1990 ‘Salt Lick’ EP was recorded with Steve Albini, way before…wait, Nirvana…helped take the Chicago engineer’s stock to an all-time commercial high.)
Tad (the band) left Sub Pop in the wake of Nirvana’s success, high on the sort of drugs you really wouldn’t want your mum to know about, or indeed take, thus temporarily terminating Tad (the man)’s friendship with Sub Pop founder Bruce Pavitt that stretched back through the pair’s days working at legendary elevator music plant, Muzak. This didn’t seem like such a bad move–1994’s Inhaler was a critical hit, heavy and articulate, promoted with a poster of Bill Clinton drawing on a joint, exclaiming “It’s heavy shit”–until the band unceremoniously got dropped for release of selfsame poster right in the middle of a massive Soundgarden support. Likewise, East West dropped the band in ’96, right in the middle of another tour. And all the while, the drugs kicked in harder and harder…
I remember meeting Tad Doyle: you don’t forget shit like that. He was the first Seattle musician I interviewed on my fateful first trip to the States in February 1989 (the one that later saw me being credited by Entertainment Weekly as “the man who invented grunge”*: oh cheers, why not credit me with a music that I hate 98 per cent of?)–large, genial, knocking back Mexican beer by the crateful, absolutely willing to live up to a redneck image for the press (the “LOSER” T-shirt that decimated a generation’s aspirations was first sported by Tad on tour: it was his styling of the lumberjack checked shirts that the fashion catwalks later grabbed a hold of) and full of tales of how he and Danielson were in search of that mythical bass frequency–“The one that makes men automatically shit their pants”.
So anyway, I’m reminded of all this by a new Tad DVD documentary, Busted Circuits And Ringing Ears, shot by a couple of Seattle journalists over the past couple of years and–despite a couple of minor errors of judgment–it’s as rollicking and riveting and ridiculous a ride as you’d hope and expect: most everyone (Mudhoney singer Mark Arm, Pavitt, Endino, Krist Novoselic, Sub Pop co-founder Jonathan Poneman, Peterson, some dude from Zeke) is at pains to express a) what a thoroughly great chap Tad Doyle is, and b) what a thoroughly fucking amazing kick-ass band Tad were, there are the obligatory bonus videos and grainy footage and…yeah, wallow and believe, suckers. Wallow and believe.
Hugs And Kiss Top 5
What Everett True prefers to hear
1. Katastrophy Wife, “Run To The Hills” (B-side of Rish single “Heart-On”). Um, Iron Maiden as decimated by the former singer of Babes In Toyland, Kat Bjelland…fuck shit, man, rage and distortion don’t come much more raging and distorted than this. I’ve broken people’s careers for less than this.
2. White Hinterland, “Hometown Hooray” (from the Dead Oceans album Phylactery Factory). You say Joanna Newsom. You say Chan Marshall. I say you really need to fucking start listening to some more gorgeously beautiful, dew-fresh, teasingly exquisite female singers and quit with the asinine, unbalanced comparisons already.
3. The Better Beatles, “I’m Down” (from the Hook Or Crook album Mercy Beat). They’re like The Beatles, only better. Which part of that sentence don’t you understand?
4. The Tropics Of Cancer featuring She Rocola, “Get On Your Own” (from the Rim album Under The Covers). It’s the Buzzcocks – Love Bites, right? – given some absolutely crazed but beautiful Kurt Weill-style torch song makeover.
5. Ray Rumours, “Mr. Bear” (from the forthcoming Too Pure split seven-inch single “Ray Rumours sings/Francois sings”). Gentle, sweet.