Tar '1988-1995' 2xLP via Chunklet Industries
POSTED MONDAY 10.07.13
What can you say about Tar? They were a band that existed in a very fruitful time for rock music to spin out of punk. When Tar started out in 1988, out of post HC/skate rock outfit Blatant Dissent, there were no eyes on anything remotely underground. You had to know people, or at least listen in on the right conversations, to figure out your ass from your elbow. It was a time when, if you were playing non-mainstream music, you would have to start riots and destroy venues, or smear yourself with shit and eat used tampons to get recognized in the media. When Tar called it a day in 1995, at least two bands they toured with, and five bands with whom they shared rosters on both the Amphetamine Reptile and Touch & Go labels, had signed to majors. What happened in between is history. And history is what we are here to celebrate.
Even in their heyday, there weren’t a lot of bands like Tar, either in their hometown of Chicago or anywhere else. There were bands that had the choreographed stage moves, the short hair, the loud amps, the promotional matchbooks, but few if any could manage what Tar did, which was to create a new, strict, limited vocabulary for rock-based music. Since you can’t spell “guitar” without “tar,” their use in the band went uncontested. They had two really cool ones at that, belonging to deadpan frontman John Mohr and bassist Tom Zaluckyj, forged out of aircraft aluminum, which built one of the foundations of their sound: prolonged sustain, chords that rang out as long as they could hold out. So that was a thing.
The rest of the Tar rulebook worked as such: capture the sound of three guitars playing different notes at the same time, discover harmonious sound in the discord that could erupt from the potential incompatibilities, and no leads, no solos, no posturing. What resulted was an architected noise, completed by Mark Zablocki’s second guitar and Mike Greenlees’ clean, solid drumming (and until 1991, bass guitarist, Tim Mescher) that sat firmly in the midst of the ugly American overkill of Midwestern noise rock, but with eyes on the shimmering expanses of shoegaze from afar. Studio engineers worked with the band to exploit the capacities of this approach; Steve Albini fused the guitar tones together on their 1991 album Jackson, while Brad Wood found synergies in the spaces between them for the subsequent release 1993’s Clincher EP.
Their approach seems deceptively simple, but mindbreaking thought went into how that sound came to be. They had peers in both Savage Republic’s desert psychedlia and Glenn Branca’s and Rhys Chatham’s guitar orchestras, but none of those artists were able to apply those ideas to catchy, driving three-minute rock songs the way that Tar could. When Tar broke up, other bands weren’t citing them as a primary influence in what they were trying to do with their own music. In essence, rock gave up on Tar; bands no longer got beaten up for having someone playing a synthesizer, and the group’s legacy was buried by history.
Tar reunited for local performances in 2012, and to commemorate, longtime fan Henry Owings released a two-song 7” on his Chunklet label featuring session outtakes from the band’s final album, Over And Out. Now, the fruits of their labor can be found in 1988-1995, a double album which dutifully collects all of Tar’s in between moments: 7” singles, splits, compilation tracks, unreleased material, and their entire John Peel Session. These 21 tracks reveal the hidden history of Tar’s progression from mechanized thrash into gracefully strong, peerless rock-not-roll, and that even appearances on tour singles and multi-band collections were reasons to bring their A-game.
Over fifteen years have passed since Tar’s initial demise, and 1988-1995 presents a band due for serious re-evaluation as deafening iconoclasts of independent music.
• Contains every non-12” vinyl release by Tar, including all singles, compilation tracks, unreleased, and a 1992 Peel Session, and covers of songs by Pere Ubu (“Non-Alignment Pact”), Jawbox (“Static”), AC/DC (“Hell’s Bells”), and Dobie Gray/Bryan Ferry (“The In Crowd”)
• Cut direct to lacquer by Bob Weston at CMS
• Download code included
• 21-track double-LP housed in an expanded jacket, with liner notes from many of Tar’s comrades
• Bonus digital download features Want/Need, over two hours of live Tar recordings from the band’s archives, spanning every period in the band’s development.
• 2xLP ltd edn - one time pressing
• Aluminum guitars sound best
• Limited Tar bundle available with t-shirt
Total Control & UV Race live in Atlanta '13
POSTED THURSDAY 06.20.13
Oh hey, internet. How you? Me good.
Of course, I'd be lying if I said I've not been dying to post to the Chunklet site and read/fawn all over the accompanying comments, but we've been overrun by bots. Bots! In 2013! Can you believe that nonsense? Anyway, I'm sure you're curious where to get Gucci bags, but the comments have been suspended until a new website design can be sorted out.
In the meantime, my show so far for 2013 (apart from a scorching Loincloth who played to 20 people on the same stage a month earlier) is Total Control and UV Race at 529. It's rare that a show bonks me over the head where I make absolutely sure to carve time out for it, but here is such a case. Two of Australia's finest (with Austin's own Paraquet Courts opening) played in a veritable shoebox. A perfect room for this? Oh, you better believe it.
UV Race at 529. Photo by Mike White
I'm not going to bore you, dear reader, with descriptions of both bands' sets, but instead (and entirely with their permission) I'm including live recordings. Yeah! Just like Southern Shelter or NYC Taper or something. How d'ya like that?
A stellar pair of performances and hey, Total Control share more than a couple new tracks which you can spot on the set list (see below, wise guy).
Total Control at 529. Photo by Mike White
Thanks to Sloan for helping polish this recording up slightly.
Also, to those numb nuts that care about this stuff, here's a lossless version of this admittedly trashy performance. And UV Race and Total Control by themselves.
Man...or Astro-Man? Defcon 5,4,3,2,1
POSTED THURSDAY 05.02.13
Man or Astro-Man? have returned to earth for the human masses and after years of hibernation they are now unveiling their finest recorded work to date. It has been nearly 12 years since the band last released their intergalactic sonic wave forms, and the new album, Defcon 5...4...3...2...1 is here now with a striking validity that the band is unquestionably as both tuneful and energetic as they ever have been. The record combines ever-familiar Astro audio tones and the well-established playing ferocity that MOAM? are known for, but yet now, there is an undeniably evolution to the band that is both intuitive, logical and well crafted. Defcon is here and is here with imminent purpose.
Always known as an unstoppably powerful live band, in 2010, the original lineup of Birdstuff, Coco and Star Crunch reformed to play a series of shows, and since then, they have been putting on some of the best performances of their career. Recorded with longtime Astro copilot, Steve Albini in Chicago, IL and also with Daniel Farris of Denial Labs in Birmingham, AL, the new album finds the band bringing their unique powerful style of Science Friction back to greater humanity in supreme form. It seems Man or Astro-Man? haven’t missed a beat, and the newly recorded material finds the band being as inventive and propulsive as ever. Now put on your space helmet on and strap in. The countdown begins now...
Available for preorder now!
Here's a link to just the record.
And if you want to get the record/shirt bundle, click here.
And if you want just the t-shirt, click here.
Jason Molina RIP
POSTED MONDAY 03.18.13
Monday, 10AM. Not the time you expect to get a telephone call from an old friend. But sadly, I'm accustomed to it. Far too much.
On Saturday night, March 16, 2013, Jason Molina, the songwriting force behind Songs:Ohia and Magnolia Electric Company died from a body that had been drowned in alcohol for years on end. He was far too young to die and his friends and fans have experienced a massive loss. Jason was 39.
I first met Jason back in the 90's when touring musicians would book shows on a pay phone while on the road. Jason was having difficulty booking a show in Athens (I was living in Atlanta by this time) and I arranged him to have a show at a tiny bar on College Ave. That was 1998. After that, we became quick friends. He toured the South routinely and would stay at Chunklet HQ and we'd trade quirky stories and laugh our asses off.
Jason was great by himself, but once he had the touring entourage that became Magnolia Electric Company, he really shined brightly. Maybe too brightly.
What many of us were slow to find out is that Molina had a pretty significant drinking problem. This disease, which snuffed out his life, controlled Jason for most of the last decade.
What made Jason so endearing was his lack of pretense. For as intense as he wrote, he was a goofball. But maybe, just maybe, his music was alluding to what was fighting inside him. The demons. The ghosts. The pain. The disease.
I get it. And, sadly, I get it all too well.
Jason Molina by Wes Frazer
About a year and a half ago, I wrote an impassioned plea to Jason's fans. His estranged wife and bandmates would direct people to the post to better understand what he was going through. As a friend and a fan, I didn't want to sit passively while he killed himself. Of course, even with all of his friends never leaving his side, he cashed out on Saturday night in Indianapolis with nothing but a cell phone in his pocket. My sincerest condolences go to his family who received the news.
Jason leaves behind him an enviable body of work that will be continually rediscovered because what Jason wrote wasn't fashion. It was his heart. It was his love. It was his demons. And ultimately, it brought his life to an end.
God's speed, Jason. God's speed.
(including a live performance Jason did a block from my house back in '05.)
Me, JMo and touring bro at Barrie Buck's, 2005
With All Due Humility...
POSTED MONDAY 01.28.13
I'm a huge fan. You're a huge fan. We're all fans. But this reunion can fuck off.