Friday, September 22, 2006
Tar Babies - No Contest/Honey Bubble (US 80's underground)
During the 80's I was a huge fan of the ugly atonal sounds coming out of the Midwest. The one band I could never quite wrap my ears around was Madison, Wisconsin’s Tar Babies. I’m certainI caught them live a few times, but have no recollection. I own some of their records mainly because I heard a song that I dug, would play only that track after bringing the LP home, then file it away forever after using the tune on a mixtape. Always up for reassessing the past, I snatched up their second and third SST releases when I spotted them last week in my local used CD store's cheapo bin and have been digging them since.
By the late eighties most of my fave bands were dropping the three-chord polkas and dipping into interesting sonic-hybrid experimentations. Though I haven't listened to it in nearly twenty years, I recall the Tar Babies' first SST release, Fried Milk, as still retaining the velocity of their skate punk origins while adding some slap bass and scratch guitar. Sorta where the Minutemen were heading on their last album. No Contest and Honey Bubble slow things down a bit, occasionally veering towards a Red Hot Chili Peppers white boy funk sound, but never in a sucky way (if that’s possible). There’s also some fantastic pre-post-rock like the instrumental Wisdom Drill. In fact, drummer Dan Bitney would later help refine this sound as a member of Tortoise and Isotope 217.
The band's website says that there was one more LP after this (which I’ve never heard) and that some members still play Madison as the Bar Tabbies. Pre-SST Tar Babies releases can be found on Lexicon Devil Records, a cool label outta Australia that has inexplicably been reissuing the best 80's underground sounds from America's Dairyland.
Tar Babies - No Contest/Honey Bubble