Tar Babies

  • Tar Babies
  • Face the Music EP (Bone Air) 1982 
  • Respect Your Nightmares (Bone Air/Paradise) 1985 
  • Fried Milk (SST) 1987 
  • No Contest (SST) 1988 
  • Honey Bubble (SST) 1989 

From the ashes of Midwest proto skate-thrashers Mecht Mensch came the Tar Babies. But these Madison, Wisconsin kids quickly outgrew the hardcore peewee straitjacket in which they’d been born. As far back as Face the Music, Bucky Pope’s guitar displayed a unique, lunging hard-psych quality that separated the Tar Babies from their brethren. With the eight-song Respect Your Nightmares, the band began to insert choppy, neo-funk highlights into their primal psych-punk trash (like a thinner version of Texas’ Big Boys, or the Minutemen), and that pointed them off in a whole new direction.

Although there are interludes of stoned scutter-pluck reminiscent of the Meat Puppets’ work at the time, Fried Milk is most notable for the overtness of its funk underpinnings. (People inclined to dance have been known to do so whilst this album plays.) Beginning with No Contest, they began adding horns and a techno-bup filigree that isn’t supremely appealing and tends to swamp Pope’s guitar (still the Tar Babies’ central shaft). Live shows provided evidence that the band was still capable of mind-blowing groove-excess, but their discs are less successful than the funkadelic shit they seem to be trying to emulate. Which isn’t to say that a George Clinton/Bucky Pope/Bootsy Collins/Sonny Sharrock/Sonny Murray collaboration shouldn’t be scheduled promptly.

[Byron Coley]