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"At some point, something awful happened to punk-rock music," opines George Wilson, the bassist/vocalist for TARD. "It became either, like, cheeseball Southern California kiddie rock, or it became dipshit, cock-rock-oriented posturing--tattooed-from-head-to-toe fucking hardcore. But there's a lot more to it than that."
That's certainly true in TARD's case. Wilson, guitarist/vocalist Dray Taylor and drummer Zach Brese say they occasionally draw inspiration from the novels of John Steinbeck and Kurt Vonnegut, but you'd never know it from listening to TARD numbers such as "Sweater Meat" and "Anal Fistula." Attempts to elevate the band's shtick above the gutter level have been unsuccessful so far, Wilson confesses. "I actually sat down and tried to write a politically conscious song, because a lot of my influences, like the Minutemen, the Dead Kennedys and all those guys, are from that genre," he notes. "But I can't do it, man. The first chorus that pops into my head is usually something about boobs, butts or fecal eating."
Obviously, these TARDs aren't choirboys. But the good-natured candor they exhibit both on stage and off makes up for a multitude of sins. As Wilson sees it, the band's appeal stems from the fact that "we're just doing what we'd be doing anyway. When people come to hear us play, they're seeing what they would see if they came and watched us at our rehearsal space--three guys who like hanging out together, like playing music together, have the same sick sense of humor and think that jokes about fisting and gay porno are absolutely hilarious."
The boys are keenly interested in straight porn as well, and their fondness for publications like Hustler, High Society and Barely Legal indicates that they're purists in this area as well. "I don't like that fucking rub-Vaseline-over-the-lens bullshit," Wilson explains. "Penthouse and Playboy are trying to sell you their version of sensuality, which has nothing to do with mine." He prefers Juggs because "it doesn't apologize--not even a little. I mean, they got poppin' mamas lactating, stretch marks, hairy women and all that stuff you're ashamed to get a boner over."
Such subject matter would grow tiresome quickly were it not delivered with a songsmithing savvy that invites comparisons to acts like the Presidents of the United States of America and the Squirrel Nut Zippers. Unlike the music made by most of their Mile High counterparts, a typical TARD tune is hook-laden and unabashedly melodic, with Wilson and Taylor occasionally harmonizing over Brese's beefy beats. TARD is also the first local group since the late, lamented Fox Force 5 to have penned its own theme song, a self-explanatory slice of inspired idiocy that was accompanied at a recent Cricket on the Hill gig by a pair of male dancers who won't be mistaken for Fred Astaire during their lifetimes.
The group's roots can be traced back to a party in Golden three years ago, where Taylor and Wilson met. But turning TARD, which takes its moniker from Wilson's high-school nickname, into a going proposition was more difficult than either expected. After many months of jamming together, the duo signed on their first drummer in late 1996. Unfortunately, Taylor reports, "he lasted, like, three practices." A subsequent contingent of skin-pounders followed him out the door too, in part because none of them could appreciate the twosome's admittedly eccentric vibe. Brese, however, proved to be a perfect fit. "With Zach," Taylor states, "we said 'snuff film' once, and it was like turning on a light switch."
Since then, TARD has brightened the lives of listeners at a handful of original-music venues in Denver. But while the three are looking forward to recording their first CD this summer, they have no illusions that their efforts will lead to riches or glory. As Wilson observes, "It's not like there are a million labels out there looking to sign yet another punk band."
On the other hand, Wilson acknowledges that such a description hardly fits TARD. A key element that most contemporary practitioners of the art form are lacking, in his view, is a sense of humor. And while he declines to name any local or national artists whom he believes to be thusly impaired, he says that "the main thing people fuck up on is, they take themselves too seriously"--often paying less attention to the quality of their music than to the pursuit of record deals and other perks of the musical life. "People, like, use being in a band as a vehicle to get laid," he complains.
Does it work? "No," he answers promptly. "The kind of girls that you want to dork are not the kind of girls who'll fuck you 'cause you're in a band. They usually have bad teeth, old men in prison and a nasty crank habit."
TARD. With High Machtane, 10 p.m. Thursday, June 18, Market Street Lounge, $3, 893-6754.