Tuesday, February 10, 2009

postpunk on the prairie: TAR

If you haven't noticed yet... the blog has featured a LOT (relatively speaking!) of albums released in 1993 on Touch and Go Records.


Perhaps. But your humble blogger - in retrospect - is amazed at the quality and quantity of fine records released that year. It's as strong as a year as I can remember, for indierock releases. I was going to run a list of some of them but I don't want to lose focus... ;)

And being perhaps the greatest ever American indie label, it's no surprise so many quality records - from 1993 or any year since T&G's early 1980s inception - came out on this fine label.

(one of the nifty things about running your own blog is that you're beholden to nothing. Zippo. I declared early on that the blog would have several recurring features such as the "variations on a theme" producers meme, the "5 songs" meme, etc. But there's no rules here, no schedule. Nothing but my wily wiles to guide me. And if I want to post nothing but snippets of Benny Hill jokes, for 30 days straight, by all means I'll do so. So, long story short, if you're waiting for the "variations on a theme" or "5 songs" series to continue, just settle down. There. Feel better? Good. Now pay attention... ;) )

Which brings us to TAR, formed in the teeming metropolis of DeKalb, Illinois (75 miles west of Chicago, thick in the cornfields, home of Northern Illinois University and Cindy Crawford). I don't have a clue how to describe TAR but that they're rhythmically awesome, they're guitarishly amazing, and they were one of Steve Albini's favorite bands ever. I know this because Mr. Albini told me so himself, when I found myself standing next to him at TAR's last-ever gig at the fabled Chicago venue Lounge Ax (RIP...) in November 1995. The gig was pre-announced as their last ever gig, so all the indie/postpunk Chicago luminaries (and, I suspect, others from all around our fine world) were there. It was a stellar gig, opened by Arcwelder, and closed with TAR auctioning off their handmade aluminum guitars from the stage.

Albini is perhaps a tad more qualified than most to assert "favorite band" status on TAR because he recorded the majority of their releases.

TOAST, the band's 1993 Touch and Go LP, is being featured here only because I can't stop listening to it myself. No other real reason - their prior record JACKSON may be better, or it may not - but that I like it and "Barry White" kicks some serious butt.

Believe it or not I even reviewed this record for my college newspaper in 1993 and even more terrifying, I still have a copy of that review, from the paper's September 17, 1993 edition:

TAR sticks to you like... well, tar


Touch and Go Records

Chicago's neo-Nirvanaesque TAR has kept a busy pace this year with three releases: Winter's "Teetering" 7-inch single, April's Clincher EP, and now Toast, their third full-length album. Toast is much in the same vein as their past two LPs, Roundhouse and Jackson: Walled guitars, shouted vocals, brisk drumming, throbbing metallic bass, muddy-yet-clear Steve Albini production. The album's ten tunes show off what makes TAR one of the best neo-grunge groups around.

The first tune, "Altoids, Anyone?" opens the disc with a full-frontal-assault of guitars. Nice, powerful, aggressive music. Aggressive is a good way to describe TAR's sound, actually. If you feel like kicking the shit out of a wall, or smashing your head against a (punk) rock, put on TAR instead and just yell. Works wonders for the mind. Anyway, "Barry White", the next song, has kind of a groove-type thing working for it. Good for shaking your booty to while letting off steam. Same goes for "Quieter Fellow", the next ditty, which isn't really quieter.

The rest of the songs are much in the same vein as the first three, and they are choice. "Mach Song" stands out in my mind, for some reason. The last song, "Theme", is really two songs separated by 12 minutes of total silence, reminiscent of "Endless Nameless" from Nirvana's Nevermind. The second part of "Theme" is quite brilliant, actually, It's about 2 minutes of weird guitar sounds and indecipherable vocals. Pretty cool.

If you want good frustration-releasing music, check out TAR. Especially since Nirvana's taking so long to put out their next one, which I just found out is delayed 'till October.

For the record, that "second part of 'Theme'" that I described above in the review is tracked separately in the download below, as "(untitled hidden track)". So no need to have a 14-minute song on your iPod ;)


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(1993 Touch and Go TG106CD)

01 Altoids, Anyone?
02 Barry White
03 Quieter Fellow
04 Satritis
05 Clincher
06 Giblets
07 Testor's Choice
08 Standpipe
09 Mach Song
10 Theme
11 (untitled hidden track)

edit: removed link.


  1. please re-upload this album. thanks ^^

  2. Replies
    1. I was wondering how much you remember of that last Lounge Ax show? Do you know if the full show is available anywhere? To me, it sounds like they disbanded at the height of their powers. You've probably heard the few tracks Chunklet's posted in 2006, right?

    2. I remember the show being awesome. I was stood next to Albini throughout; Arcwelder opened and were also great. I remember John Mohr taking bids for his aluminum guitar. Yes I've heard the Chunklet tracks and I know the full recording exists but I don't have it.