Local homeboys release debut LP

By Greg Dunlap

After five years of trying, DeKalb homeboys Tar have finally put out their first full-length LP. And let me tell you, in one of the most disgusting years for new music in recent history, Tar’s new record “Roundhouse” is like a cool spring breeze on a hot muggy day.

Actually, a spring monsoon would probably be a more appropriate metaphor. As soon as you put “Roundhouse” on your turntable, it’s likely to be torn apart by a hurricane of guitar, bass and drums – the likes of which you’ve never heard before. And regardless of weather concerns, “Roundhouse” has already earned the title “independent record of the year” hands down, no questions asked.

What sets “Roundhouse” apart from the slew of other new releases we were all so disappointed by in 1990? For one thing, the men of Tar really know how to write a great song. Many of the new bands of the past five years or so spend so much time developing a “sound” that they forget the fact that a band is only as good as the songs they play. Recent independent label faves like The Cows, Rapeman, or almost any band on the SubPop label all SOUND really cool, but they lack substance. Once you play their records more than five times, you’re bored.

Tar’s songs grab you, and then like any great band they hold you firm, growing better and better with each subsequent listen. First you notice the pounding, driving guitars in songs like “Cold” and “Black Track” and the orderly chaos of “Bad Box” and “Gag Reflex.”

Then after a while you notice the little details. Like Tar’s lead singer John Mohr reading his record contract and tape looping ham radio operators behind “Gag Reflex.” This is the kind of thing the term “way cool” was created to describe.

Many older area residents may remember Tar when they were based in DeKalb and played under a different name. Well, forget it. It’s ancient history. While that band played a more straightforward punk style based on bands like Wire and Stiff Little Fingers, Tar has taken those influences and blended in the more modern sound of The Wipers and Scratch Acid to produce something which is loud and explosive but has some real songwriting craft beyond the noise.

It is for this reason that if you buy only one record this year, it should be “Roundhouse.” So many bands can write great tunes or have a nifty style, but it takes a real talent to combine the both of them. If you can’t find the record at any area stores, write to Amphetamine Reptile Records at 2541 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN, 55404. Do it soon, do it now.