Their Signature Sound
Formed in the late eighties, Tad have now been around for nearly three decades, all the while shaping their distinctive brand of metal-inflected grunge. Although the comical titles of their albums might throw listeners off at first, the band members complement one another quite nicely to make for a highly engaging listen. Most recently, they have re-released three of their old LPs that definitively show their progression from grunge-punk metal to classically-styled metal. God’s Balls, Salt Lick and 8-Way Santa are all well crafted albums that demonstrate the band’s ability to find their sound and build upon it. Perhaps one of the most readily apparent characteristics of Tad is their musical fluidity. On each album, it sounds like the band is merely jamming, and that they could continue this process all day long. Perhaps this is because, unlike other metal bands, their songs are relatively condensed. In most cases, their tracks feel like fresh musical ideas, engaging the listener in a musical conversation–led, of course, by Tad. Either way, it is magical to be a part of this musical discussion, and one cannot help but fall in love with these re-releases.
God’s Balls captures a more cultivated Tad sound. “Tuna Car,” for instance, is an example of the band’s characteristic style, chock-full with excitingly syncopated rhythms and sludgy textures. Chugging metal riffs are introduced, one chord being panned into each ear until the song drops. Lead singer Tad Doyle comes in, screaming unintelligible words. Ultimately, we hear about his “food in the fridge,” and how he is, “down, down, down/down to the ground.” The guitar produces a wall of noise against the syncopated snare drum blasts, as Doyle sings melodies that soar across the background. “Tuna Car” is reminiscent of Metallica’s metal melodies and heaviness of tone yet it is still full of Tad’s signature stylistic components. “Sex God Missy (Lumberjack Mix)” similarly showcases this sound. These same chugging metal chords are accented by snare drums. In a rather mocking fashion, Doyle sings, “Mrs. Got what you want, Mrs. Got what you need.” Samples of radio communications add to the density and complexity of the sound. Doyle is not afraid to write a song about a love interest, and this is a welcome and somewhat unexpected thematic departure from the brutality of Tad’s metal proclivities.
“Hollow Man” is important in defining Tad’s overall sound as well, although it is certainly a little different. It starts much slower, featuring a soaring, distorted melody punctuated by chugging guitars. The drums haphazardly plod along to provide an important rhythmic motif in the song’s background. The sonic textures firmly display Tad’s alt-rock roots, capturing a strong grunge feel, reminiscent of the early work of Nirvana or even Pearl Jam. The vocal delivery is emotive and relatively serious. It is made quite apparent that this hollow man feels some sort of pain. Halfway through the song, it drops into feedback–a rhythmic sort of idea–allowing Tad to play out the song in their distinct style.
Salt Lick harkens back to an earlier, punk version of the band’s sound. For instance, “Axe to Grind” has a faster, grittier edge to it. The song begins with distorted guitar harmonics, paired with the chugging power chords that have always been a definitive factor of Tad’s overall sound. Doyle speaks in the background during the song’s intro before singing, “she has an axe to grind,” effectively framing this song around a girl who wants revenge. The syncopated drum grooves continue blasting in the background, helping to provide rhythmic variety and density. This truly is a metal song. “High on the Hog” alludes to some of Tad’s influences with a an obvious homage to Black Sabbath. Doyle sings, “my brother taught me how to read, my father taught me how to bleed.” In this verse, it feels like Doyle is just trying to find rhyming words. However, this propensity for humor is an endearing aspect of the band, and it contributes to this idea that they are merely expressing the fluidity of their musicianship. It’s impressive that they have been able to do this since the advent of their career. In true Tad fashion, “Potlatch” also begins with syncopated guitar riffs and drums, which are busy banging on all cylinders. Much like “High on the Hog,” the title of the song becomes central to the chorus’s lyrics. Also, a wah-wah pedal is featured toward the middle of the song, adding a welcome new texture to their sound and proving that Tad are not afraid to experiment.
8-Way Santa seems to be the most punk and grunge-influenced of the three re-released works. An important aspect of this album’s sound is that the guitar operates more as a melodic device, as opposed to purely providing rhythmic qualities, as is usually the case with Tad. Album opener “Jinx” has a distinctively cleaner sound. The metal chugging matches perfectly with the guitar and the drums, allowing the audience to hear the lyrics clearly. Eventually, the tempo picks up to breakneck, punk speed–reminiscent of something from Motörhead’s catalog–before eventually returning to the grunge sound that forms this Seattle-based band’s musical foundation. The chorus showcases one of Doyle’s catchier lyrical deliveries, as he sings, “I’m a jinx, I’m a jinx,” hearkening back to a punk-esque theme of introspection. In “Giant Killer,” the bass is very deep, and the rhythm maintains a syncopated feel. The melody repeatedly rises, increasing the raw emotion of the song. Doyle sings excruciating lyrics such as, “I think I lost an arm, I think I lost a leg, I think I lost an eye, I think I lost my way.” As seems to be true with 8-Way Santa in general, the guitars here feature arpeggiated lines rather than merely sustaining Tad’s usual chugging quality.
8-Way Santa ends with “Eddie Hook.” The bass captures a different sound than that established on the preceding tracks; it is cleaner, while still driving the low-end of the song. Doyle sings, “Eddie don’t have no job, Eddie just rides his bike.” Like in “Jinx,” Tad attempts to define a certain aspect of himself while the metallic guitars shape the backdrop. Meanwhile, a processed synthesizer melody fills out the soundscape. The end of the song features piercing vocal screams from Tad Doyle in one last effort to express his muse. “Eddie Hook” ultimately ends with a burp sound, the climax of the album and a concise expression of Tad’s overall sound.