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Part of the Chicago underground scene of the late '80s and early '90s, Tar played a fierce blend of abrasive noise rock and post-hardcore punk, drawing from local touchstones like Big Black and Naked Raygun. However, they were also influenced by vintage punk bands like the Sex Pistols, Stooges, and New York Dolls; plus, as they evolved, they were often compared to more metallic noisemakers like Helmet and the Jesus Lizard. Tar's thick, heavy guitar textures and pitch-dark dissonance were an accurate reflection of their moniker, and their disdain for accessibility or major-label exposure was just as accurate a reflection of the scene from which they'd arisen. After several albums for uncompromising indies Touch & Go and Amphetamine Reptile, the band elected to call it quits following what many deemed its best work.
The origins of Tar date back to a hardcore punk outfit called Blatant Dissent, which formed in DeKalb, IL, while singer/guitarist John Mohr and drummer Mike Greenlees were attending Northern Illinois University. In 1988, they relocated to Chicago and reinvented themselves as the much more challenging Tar, along with guitarist Mark Zablocki and bassist Tim Mescher. Mohr released their debut 7", "Play to Win" b/w "Mel's," on his own No Blow label, and the group subsequently landed a deal with the Amphetamine Reptile imprint. Tar made their proper debut with the 1989 EP Handsome, half of which was engineered by avowed influence Steve Albini; they followed it with another 7", "Flow Plow" b/w "Hand."
Tar's first-ever full-length appeared in 1990 in the form of Roundhouse, which was produced by Albini and found the band growing more assured in its style. Bassist Mescher left the band in early 1991 and was replaced by Tom Zaluckyj. The "Solution 8" single followed, as did their second album, Jackson, which again boasted assistance from Albini and showed Mohr developing into a stronger vocalist. Tar subsequently departed Amphetamine Reptile in favor of Touch & Go, making their debut with the 1992 single "Teetering"; a split 7" with Dischord emo heroes Jawbox followed hot on its heels. 1993's Clincher EP flirted with the grungy side of electric Neil Young, a trend that continued on the full-length Toast, which appeared later that year.
The band toured the U.S. and Europe in support of Toast, and the latter leg of the tour went poorly. Deciding that they were no longer enjoying themselves as they once had, Tar agreed to go their separate ways after one more album. Over and Out was released in 1995 and was widely acclaimed as the high point of their career, thanks to its greater variety. In the wake of Tar's dissolution, Zaluckyj and Greenlees reteamed in Luckyj, which never released a record. Greenlees also played in Ex-Chittle with former Dis- member Rob Sieracki. Meanwhile, Zaluckyj played with the B-52's' Fred Schneider for a brief period, and also worked as an engineer at Albini's studio.
Tar refers to the substance obtained from a variety of organic materials through destructive distillation. Tar can be produced from coal, wood, petroleum, or peat. It is black, and a mixture of hydrocarbons and free carbon. Production and trade in pine-derived tar was a major contributor in the economies of Northern Europe and Colonial America, particularly North Carolina. Its main use was in preserving wooden vessels against rot. The largest user was the Royal Navy. Demand for tar declined with the advent of iron and steel ships.
Tar-like products can also be produced from other forms of organic matter such as peat. Mineral products resembling tar can be produced from fossil hydrocarbons including petroleum. Coal tar is produced from coal as a byproduct of coke production. Bitumen is a term used for natural deposits of oil "tar" – such as at the La Brea Tar Pits.
In Northern Europe, the word "tar" refers primarily to a substance that is derived from the wood and roots of pine. In earlier times it was often used as a water repellent coating for boats, ships, and roofs. It is still used as an additive in the flavoring of candy, alcohol and other foods. Wood tar is microbicidal and has a pleasant odor – a sweet musky scent much like that of barbecue. Producing tar from wood was known in ancient Greece, and has probably been used in Scandinavia since the Iron Age. For centuries, dating back at least to the 14th century, tar was among Sweden's most important exports. Sweden exported 13,000 barrels of tar in 1615 and 227,000 barrels in the peak year of 1863. Production nearly stopped in the early 20th century, when other chemicals replaced tar and wooden ships were replaced by steel ships.
The heating (dry distilling) of pine wood causes tar and pitch to drip away from the wood and leave behind charcoal. Birchbark is used to make particularly fine tar, known as "Russian oil", suitable for leather protection. The by-products of wood tar are turpentine and charcoal. When deciduous tree woods are subjected to destructive distillation the products are methanol (wood alcohol) and charcoal.
Tar kilns (Swedish: tjärdal, Danish: tjæremile, Norwegian: tjæremile, Finnish: tervahauta) are dry distillation ovens, historically used in Scandinavia for producing tar from wood. They were built close to the forest, from limestone or from more primitive holes in the ground. The bottom is sloped into an outlet hole, to allow the tar to pour out. The wood is split to dimensions of a finger and stacked densely, and finally covered tight with dirt and moss. If oxygen can enter, the wood might catch fire, and the production would be ruined. On top of this, a fire is stacked and lit. After a few hours, the tar starts to pour out, and continues to do so for a few days.
Tar was used as seal for roofing shingles and to seal the hulls of ships and boats. For millennia wood tar was used to waterproof sails and boats, but today sails made from inherently waterproof synthetic substances have negated the need for tar. Wood tar is still used to seal traditional wooden boats and the roofs of historical shingle-roofed churches, as well as painting exterior walls of log buildings. Tar is also a general disinfectant. Pine tar oil, or wood tar oil, is a pure natural product used for the surface treatment of wooden shingle roofs, boats, buckets, and tubs and in the medicine, soap, and rubber industries. Pine tar has good penetration on the rough wood. An old wood tar oil recipe for the treatment of wood is one-third of each Genuine wood tar, balsam turpentine and boiled or raw linseed oil or Chinese tung oil.
In Finland wood tar was once considered a panacea reputed to heal "even those cut in twain through their midriff". A Finnish proverb states that if sauna, vodka and tar won't help, the disease is fatal. Wood tar is used in traditional Finnish medicine because of its microbicidial properties.
Wood tar is also available diluted as tar water, which has numerous uses:As a flavoring for candies (e.g. Terva Leijona) and alcohol (Terva Viina)As a spice for food, like meatAs a scent for saunas. Tar water is mixed into water which is turned into steam in the saunaAs an anti-dandruff agent in shampooAs a component of cosmetics
Mixing tar with linseed oil varnish produces tar paint. Tar paint has a translucent brownish hue, and can be used to saturate and tone wood and protect it from weather. Tar paint can also be toned with various pigments, producing translucent colours and preserving the wood texture.
The word "tar" is often used to describe several distinct substances which are not actually tar. Naturally occurring "tar pits" (e.g., the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles) actually contain asphalt rather than tar. Tar sands deposits (sometimes called oil sands) contain various mixtures of sand (or rock) with bitumen or heavy crude oil and not tar (e.g., the Tar Tunnel in Shropshire). "Rangoon tar", also known as "Burmese Oil" or "Burmese Naphtha", is actually petroleum. "Tar" and "pitch" are sometimes used interchangeably; however, pitch is considered more solid while tar is more liquid.
In English, German, and French, "tar" is a substance primarily derived from coal. It was formerly one of the products of gasworks. Tar made from coal or petroleum is considered toxic and carcinogenic because of its high benzene content, though coal tar in low concentrations is used as a topical medicine. Coal and petroleum tar has a pungent odour.
Coal tar is listed at number 1999 in the United Nations list of dangerous goods.