Tad - 8-Way Santa LP (Loser Edition)Sub Pop
Tad had documented their unrelenting parade of heavy riffage and antisocial behavior with no small skill on their debut album, God's Balls, and the follow-up EP, Salt Lick. But by this point, the bandmembers wanted to broaden their palette a bit, and they upped their ante on 1991's 8-Way Santa. Tad worked with producer Butch Vig for the 8-Way Santa sessions, shortly before he helped Nirvana craft the game-changing Nevermind. While the results lacked a bit of the monster truck impact of God's Balls, the album certainly favored Steve Wied's drumming, as well as the taut guitar crosstalk between Tad Doyle and Gary Thorstensen. 8-Way Santa sounded cleaner and better detailed than Tad's previous work without sacrificing the roar of the guitars, and Doyle's vocals were a serious improvement over what came before, still gruff and full of menace but better articulated and with a welcome touch of drama. 8-Way Santa was clearly and unmistakably Tad, but it also found them showing new ambition in their songwriting. The tunes managed to incorporate melody and hooks in a way that had eluded the band before; "Giant Killer" and "Candi" showed they hadn't lost touch with their thunderous past, but "Jinx" and "Jack Pepsi" were heavy rock you could howl along with, and "Delinquent" even featured a protagonist one could empathize with (or at least feel sorry for). And the hard but unmistakable jangle of "3-D Witch Hunt" revealed Tad could write something like a pop tune if they felt like it, though they still hit the fuzz pedals for the chorus. Calling 8-Way Santa Tad's most user-friendly album suggests it was somehow compromised, but that's not how it plays; it's dynamic and melodic, but also a master class in the heavier side of grunge, and a work capable of pleasing old fans and winning new ones. And who knows, without a couple of lawsuits related to the cover artwork, it might have been the LP that took Tad to the big time.