Thursday, 20 November 2014

Hog Molly - Kung-Fu Cocktail Grip (2001)

As I've argued elsewhere, Tad were probably the greatest rock band of all time, at least for my money. It isn't simply that they sounded heavier than anything before or since; after all, any dummy with a fuzz pedal can usually manage that one, hence all those mystifying death, thrash, black, or whatever metal bands grunting their way through slabs of undifferentiated noise which may as well be Consumer Electronics for all the difference it makes to any milkman in search of something to whistle of a morning. Tad were different, having remembered to include tunes amongst all those crushing minor chords, and with some strangely bruised and fragile quality swaddled somewhere within the radius of the blast zone making the whole appear all the more extreme through contrast. Unfortunately they were also probably the unluckiest band in the world, as is evident from watching the excellent Busted Circuits and Ringing Ears documentary, from which it becomes clear why they might have felt like throwing in the towel, as they did in 1999.

Between 1989 and 1995, Tad released four frankly astounding studio albums without so much as a single weak track to be heard; and so left a substantial hole in the general rhythm of my listening habits once the well ran dry. Then in 2000, Tad Doyle - after whom the first band was named, in case that wasn't obvious - resurfaced with some new guys and released Kung-Fu Cocktail Grip. Unsurprisingly it's roughly the same territory as Tad, Doyle himself having a highly distinctive approach to composition, and with Jack Endino producing as he had done on Tad's Infrared Riding Hood and God's Balls.

Squint those ears and it could almost be the fifth Tad album, but not quite. I'm tempted to believe it may be the absence of Kurt Danielson that has shifted the emphasis here, but that's probably an oversimplification, if not just plain wrong. Hog Molly seemed a sharper, more streamlined animal than Tad, less given over to subtleties, and yes, I do maintain that there are subtleties to be found in something invoking the experience of a monster truck reversing over your head. Kung-Fu Cocktail Grip bludgeons, and keeps on bludgeoning for the full fifty minutes, but never becomes overwhelming, never sludges out into the usual big grey wall of grinding guitar. Even at its most thermonuclear, the recording is beautifully spaced, keeping even the squeak of a bass drum pedal intact as the band drop rocks onto your head, thus allowing one to appreciate every last sweating pore.

There's still nothing that quite tears out your heart and stamps on it like Stumbling Man or Glue Machine, but there are a few that come close enough and, as with Tad, there are still no duff tracks to be heard. Even so, this came out a while ago, and fifteen years has been a long time to go without fresh servings from this particular spigot. There's supposed to be a Brothers of the Sonic Cloth album out some time next year - that being Tad's current band - and it can't come too soon.

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