Tad

8-Way Santa

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Review

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. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi