Maty’s Corner #22 Tellin’ Front Porch Stories of Being Lost and Rootless: A Story of Tim Barry

Maty’s Corner #22
Tellin’ Front Porch Stories of Being Lost and Rootless:
A Story of Tim Barry

Throw some beers in your bag, grab a fresh pack of smokes and hop in a boxcar with me, we’re gonna have a nice long talk about Tim Barry. You may be wondering “who in the hell is Tim Barry?” He fronted the amazing RVA punk rock band Avail from 1987-1008 and has had a solo folk punk career under his own name since 2004. This gruff voiced beast of a vocalist has been kickin’ round the scene for 27 years now and ain’t showing much sign of slowing anytime soon. Avail had there albums put out through Lookout and Fat Wreck and currently on Jade Tree. Prior to Avail Tim Barry was in punk band L.D. Kids, don’t know enough about them to write much on it.

The first album from the intersection of hard core and folk known as Avail came out in 1992 titled Satiate. Right out of the gate these southern boys proved they had the chops to keep up with any band anywhere in the scene with an amazing strong debut. Much of the sound on this, including Tim’s vocals, is very reminiscent of Fugazi. A completely solid listen to crank up and feel like your ceiling is gonna fall in on ya.

1994 saw their second album Dixie. They were coming into a sound fully of their own. Vocally it sounds more the Tim Barry voice we know now. As if their playing wasn’t solid enough, it jumps up a few notches on this album. This album even includes a totally bad ass cover of John Mellencamp’s Pink Houses.

1996 gave us what is probably Avail’s best album, 4AM Friday. It kicks off with the incredibly strong opener Simple Song which was featured in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4. Being a band not afraid to evolve this album features more of a straight ahead mid 90’s punk rock sound. They didn’t forsake their hardcore side at all as Monroe Park shows which is an anthem for the pit. Definitely my favorite Avail album here.

1998 saw the release of Over the James. This album is even more of the certain post punk sound that countless bands sine about 2000 have taken influence from. Some tracks still stay to the initial hardcore sound these guys are known for. My stand out on this has to be Cross Tie, kind of an electro folk sound on this one. The re release also features an acoustic of the song Lombardy Street, a hint at Tim’s music to come.

2000 dropped the release One Wrench which opens with a searing hard track to rip the paint off your walls. They continue on with the blend of hard core songs and these near folky songs that have spawned a scene known as beard punk, or Orgcore (whatever the fuck that means). This is as great of a realease as the rest of Avail’s efforts. For this they had left Lookout and been signed to Fat Wreck.

2002 brought us Avail’s final album, Front Porch Stories. They said good bye to everyone with one amazing album. A really interesting track West Wye a bad ass alt country intro to one of Avail’s gnarliest sounding tracks. Avail would be active off and on until 2008. 21 years of one the East Coast’s greatest bands and their farewell record was not at all disappointing.

Since 2004 Tim Barry has been putting out some amazing folk music. As of a couple weeks ago he has 6 albums. Throughout these there’s a personal evolution. It goes from sounding like an angry/ sad drunken hobo in songs like Church of Level Track and Avoiding Catatonic Surrender to sounding more like a satisfied family man with a wanderlust. His latest album Lost and Rootless really exemplifies this. A track on the new album title The James sounds a bit like a nod to his old days struggling to make it with a hard core band in the RVA scene. So if ya don’t know Tim Barry solo or Avail, beg borrow or steal to get this amazing music.
-Maty Almost

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Maty’s Corner #21 Milo Finished College and Got Saved by Allroy: A Story of Descendents and All

Maty’s Corner #21

Milo Finished College and Got Saved by Allroy:
A Story of Descendents and All

1978 Hermosa Beach California, something is stirring that would effect the whole of Southern California punk rock and be a pillar of an early label. Fishing would be the initial spark behind the 2 most seminal bands in pop punk and 1 of the most in punk as a whole. Bill Stevenson (Drummer and overall mastermind behind both bands) worked at a bait and tackle shop under Keith Morris’ dad. Bill asked Keith about music, from there he got turned on to Ramones, Sex Pistols, Dickies and most importantly The Last. Bill and Joe Nolte of The Last became fast friends. They then met Frank Navetta, who came up with the name and wrote many of Descendents’ best known songs. Joe left to commit to his initial band and Tony Lombardo was randomly found near 9th and Walnut in Long Beach. 1980 would see Milo recruited and this was the real start of Descendents rockin and rollin every night.

1982 brought us Descendents best known and one of the South Bay’s most important albums, Milo Goes to College. This was the beginning on the South Bay powerhouse of SST Records. This whole album is utterly stand out. From Navetta’s I’m not a Loser and Parents, Milo’s Hope, Lombardo’s Suburban Home to Stevenson’s Bikeage. This band is far from a one man show. This is in the list of most solid albums from California punk rock, nothing bad and everything good.

1985 dropped off I Don’t Wanna Grow Up. This is opens up with the Descendents self titled theme song. This was born out of the few years Stevenson spent in Black Flag while Milo was learning to save the world with science. Bill had a batch of songs he wrote the wouldn’t work with the Flag. This also gave us Silly Girl and Good Good Things. It’s good that they weren’t trying to re-do the Milo album.

1986 dropped out Enjoy. A different album from the previous 2. There’s some darker heavier tracks, but still Descendents nonetheless. There’s a few of the excellent punk love songs on this like Get The Time, a cover of Beach Boys’ Wendy and Sour Grapes. From here a new idea would be born.

ALL was birthed in 1987. This album introduced the philosophy of ALL! It’s punctuated with some great standard Descendents songs as well. Including one of the groups most heavy heart songs Clean Sheets. For those who don’t the All-O-Gistics they are:thou shalt not commit laundry
thou shalt covet thy neighbor’s food (all)
thou shalt not create ties with the scathed (no all)
thou shalt always go for greatness
thou shalt not commit adulthood (all)
thou shalt not partake of decaf (all!)
thou shalt not suppress flatulence
thou shalt not commit hygiene (all!)
thou shalt not have no idea (all)
thou shalt commit thyself to an institution (no all)
thou shalt not take the van’s name in vain
thou shalt not allow anything to deter you in your quest for all (all!) you may achieve all
and not wallow unknown for eternity,
all you have to do is do it! all!(we shall achieve all) he who bears the most gas, let him also bear forth his ass, and cast forth the first frap
(all!)

Nine years later in 1996 the Descendents came back on a new label, Epitaph Records. They gave us Everything Sucks. This spawned 2 video singles for When I Get Old and I’m The One. The influence of ALL showed in the songwriting, this is their best album since Milo went to college. Another stand out on this is Coffee Mug, the tribute to the container for the elixir of God.

There would be another 8 year hiatus until 2004’s Cool To Be You. This came out on Fat Wreck. It’s a great enough album to be worth the wait. The Descendents/ ALL sound were fully merged into one unit as of this release. This is their most current. Descendents are still active with live shows.

During the Descendents’ breaks Stevenson and the other members minus Milo have been nurturing ALL starting in 1987. This is on of the most underrated bands as they’ve always had the stigma of the singer not being Milo. They’ve had a revolving door of some great vocalists including Dag Nasty/ Down By Law front man Dave Smalley. They even had an album on Interscope Records. It’s a different sound from Descendents and very worth the time to check out. For more to feed your Milo and Allroy addiction get the documentary Filmage. Now get to know these bands’ music, drink of the bonus cup and go for ALL!

-Maty Almost

Links:

https://www.facebook.com/thedescendents

https://www.facebook.com/ALL

https://www.facebook.com/filmagemovie

Maty’s Corner #19 Ben Weasel; He’s a Jerk, He’s a Hero!

Maty’s Corner #19
Ben Weasel; He’s a Jerk, He’s a Hero!

Ben Weasel is one of most maligned, polarizing and interesting characters in the punk scene. He’s captained two defining bands, authored 2 books, is presently working on a musical and has effortlessly pissed off most of the “punk” scene. Gonna apologize in advance if I get anything wrong and do my best shed some light on a nasty rumor or two. Strap in and take a ride to the punk house.

Ben’s first and most notable band Screeching Weasel started in 1987 in Prospect Heights Illinois and became a fixture in the chicago punk scene. Their alumni over the years has boasted some heavy hitters such as Mike Dirnt, Mass Giorgini, Aaron Cometbus and Dan Vapid. They are probably the most influential band to pop punk/power pop/emo since the Ramones. Their brand of punk has covered quite the broad spectrum from weird pop culture fantasies to the pretentiousness inherent in the more leftist portion of punk rock.

1987 brought us their self titled debut. The album was around only briefly at the time as Underdog Records had no interest in re-pressing after the initial copies sold out. It was re-issued in 1997 by VML Records. This album is great for the hard core fans but easily their worst or best album depending on perspective. I enjoy it but would not play it to introduce someone to the band. The highlight is early versions on some of the band’s better known songs being, Murder in the Brady House, My Right, Hey Suburbia, and I Hate Led Zeppelin. It’s worth a listen if you love Screeching Weasel or just some kind of music nerd.

In 1988 Weasel put out Boogada, probably their best known album. This was their debut on Lookout Records. This featured better produced versions of a few tracks off of their first album. This effort sees the beginnings of their transition from strange near hard core to the pop punk powerhouse they are today. One of the stand outs on this is Nicaragua which seems like a fuck you to the over sensitive crusties. This was also one of the first appearances of the famed cartoon weasel character.

1991 gave us My Brain Hurts. This showed the band in the more pop punk/ Ramones-Core direction. This featured backing vocals with the edition of Dan Vapid and a better, more rounded out sound. A highlight from this is one of my favorite Weasel songs, Science of Myth, a song that still affects me to this day. This release took the weasel to new heights in popularity.

In 1992 Weasel released an album that changed my view on punk rock in general and was the first one I ever heard. It was titled Ramones. This is a cover of the entire first Ramones album done in Screeching Weasel’s own break neck pace. The repress also had the Formula 27 EP tacked on at the end and is entitled Beat Is on the Brat. This is the version I got. This was their first album to be recorded at Sonic Iguana studios with Mass Giorgini producing, a unit that has put out many of pop punk’s greatest releases.

Following the Ramones celebration was 1993’s Wiggle. The band’s most solid album. It featured a number of songwriting collaborations with Joe Queer and one with Aaron Cometbus. The highlight of this is the entire album. Though Crying in My Beer and High School psychopath near have their own life beyond this release. Supposedly there have been regrets about some of the songs chosen for this album which I don’t get personally.

Also 1993 brought us Anthem for a New Tomorrow, yes they are that fast. This was a bit more straight up than Wiggle. I think part of that was the bulk of the tracks were written strictly by Ben Weasel. It continued their legacy as pop punk titans. Their instrumentation and lyricism had jumped by leaps and bounds at this point.

1994 brought what was initially going to be Weasel’s last album, How to Make Enemies and Irritate People. Dan Vapid had left the band at this point. Green Day’s mike Dirnt had been recruited to fill in. The recording does show the strain the band was feeling. It was still a great album nonetheless. It’s still classic Weasel even if a bit tired. This also marks their final release with Lookout Records. It really looked the Weasel was out to pasture.

1995 brought us an interim album, Kill the Musicians. This is packed with a bunch of goodies such as b sides and vinyl only stuff. A definite must for the hard core Weasel fan.

Cut to 1996. Reformed Weasel with a new album, Bark like a Dog on a new label, Fat Wreck Chords. This alum sounds a lot more alive and in tune with Screeching Weasel than their prior effort. They sound more alive. This was their only album to hit Billboard at #34. Bark gave us Cool Kids which is an excellent Weasel track.

1998 kicked in with Television City Dream. Vapid had again left the band and Mass Giorgini was filling in on bass along with producing the album. This is a blend of the Weasel pop sound with a blend of the harder edge found on their earliest work. It was yet another solid effort from the Weasel. They were still on Fat Wreck at this point.

In 1999 Weasel released their overall most interesting album, Emo. Interesting due to a lot of the song writing sounding like a lot of mid western punk that was being labeled as such and the obvious fact that this band’s music had an influence on the scene. Though I doubt this band ever stole their sister’s clothes, make up and hair products. This whole album stands out as it was quite different from anything the band had done. They had split from Fat and released this on Panic Button Records which was run by founding member Jughead.

2000 saw the release of Teen Punks in Heat. Another solid release from the band. It looked like they were in a full fledged reformation as they had played two sold out shows. Their first live performance in seven years. But Weasel broke up again and wouldn’t release another album for 11 years.

2011 marked Weasel’s craziest year to date. They were back on Fat Wreck and with a new album, First World Manifesto. Some of it takes stabs at everything that”punks” like Fat Mike are about. Along with this was the incident at South by Southwest. A female member of the audience had been throwing ice and spitting at Ben through the duration of their set. After an hour Ben lost it and threw a punch at her, guess you shouldn’t screw with the band, then the club owner rushed Ben and he defended himself. Following this was much of the punk scene forming a lynch mob. His own band threw him under the bus and got shit canned as a result. Fat Mike was of course full of self righteous indignation due to him being such a stand up guy, right.

Aside from Screeching Weasel and polarizing fans Ben fronted another highly influential group, the Riverdales. They took the Ramones influence to new levels. Lead vocals were shared between Dan Vapid and Ben Weasel. Really amazing band. They released 5 albums between 1995 and 2010. I’m pretty sure this band is dead as Vapid was one of the people to turn on Ben the moment the wind blew wrong.

Along with this Ben has put out 2 solo albums and 2 difficult to find books. After 23 years the Weasel marches on. Honestly I think Ben exemplifies punk more than a number of artists in the scene. It’s supposed to be a bit unfriendly and dangerous. You want safe, go listen to some shitty pop music. Ben screwed up and apologized. Get over it. As for Vapid and crew, you betray your band, you deserve the unemployment line. If you know Ben’s band, give another listen, if not, check ‘em out!
-Maty Almost

https://www.facebook.com/screechingweasel

A nice letter from Ben Weasel to Fat Mike

So There’s A Lynch Mob After You!

A primer for the beleaguered punk singer

Fat Mike, you’re having a bad week. You’re in the soup and there’s no use pretending otherwise. But I’m here to help, brother. Take a deep breath, count to ten and sit down while Poppa Weasel shows you how it’s done.

As you may have heard, I had a little trouble along these lines about 3 1/2 years ago when I slugged a woman in one of our crowds who had been showering me with beer, spit and ice cubes (including one right above the old peeper!) all night. Then I got jumped by another lady and popped her one in the kidneys for good measure. Hey, she had like six inches on me; I thought she was a giant condor. Anyhoo, it ended up in living color all over YouTube and within about 90 seconds the mood on the Internet had turned ugly. This formerly beloved, adored, highly respected gentleman was suddenly public enemy number one!

You and I both know this sort of thing barely registered a blip on the radar in punk not so long ago, but times have changed, my friend. It’s a brave new world, and you and I are a couple of dinosaurs, lumbering around, knocking into shit and making a nuisance of ourselves. The kids are not pleased. But not to worry – your PR expert Ben Weasel is here to save the day for you!

First, apologize. I know – you’ve done it. Not good enough. You need to apologize again. And again. And again. You need to keep apologizing for the rest of your life. People who had nothing to do with the incident, who were thousands of miles away at the time, and who have no idea of the context (and couldn’t care less) sincerely believe you owe it to them.

Granted, in my case, I apologized once and then dropped it, but I’m Ben Weasel; people would think I was ill if I kept saying I was sorry. But you’re Fat Mike! You play the game! Heck, you own the team! If you take the ball and go home, the game is over! So you need to play by the rules. And rule number one is eat shit. Lots and lots of shit. And when you think you can’t take any more, stuff some more shit in your cake-hole and swallow, and do it with a big smile on your face.

Second: try to understand that this is never going to end. Ever. You’ll be up on stage at age 80 bragging about all the coke you just did and trying to convince your geriatric fans to vote for Chelsea Clinton and people will still be bringing up the Big Kick. The sooner you wrap your head around this fact, the sooner you can face reality and take action.

Now, if you were me, you could play the heel and use this situation to your advantage; I’m currently making more money and playing in front of larger crowds than ever before. But you suffer from the unfortunate affliction of wanting to be liked and respected by strangers. So you’d better start getting used to disappointment, because people will be throwing this in your face for the rest of your life. It’s not going away.

Next, you’re going to need to get used to the crazies. Not just the yappers and scolders, but the ones who talk about attacking or killing you and who threaten to post your home address on the Internet. Accept that people are going to wish cancer on your kids, claim that you beat your wife, and announce that they hope your children end up doing donkey porn. Trust me brother, I’ve been there. These are the kind of morally righteous men-of-the-people whose rage you’ve piqued, and they will not be ignored.

This may seem insane to you, but if somebody threatens your life on social media, don’t expect Facebook or Twitter to do anything about it except delete the post. You can’t take legal action unless you file a suit. The cops won’t do anything about it either. You’ll have to defend yourself.

I recommend the Mossberg Persuader. Hell of a shotgun. The great thing about the Persuader is it’s got a pistol grip. Easy as pie. Seriously, the guys from Teenage Bottle Rocket could operate it (if they had opposable thumbs). And it doesn’t matter if you can’t shoot. If you fire this fucking thing within about twenty yards of your target you’re going to obliterate it and everything around, behind and possibly underneath it. I’m pretty sure it even destroys things in other dimensions when fired. I know your politics mean you’re supposed to be against guns, but you can’t count on neutralizing every intruder by kicking him in the face. What if you’re in your bathrobe and slippers after having lurched out of bed at 2 pm? Besides, being a rich San Francisco liberal means never having to live by the rules you impose on everyone else, so do yourself a favor and pick up that Persuader.

And, as a backup, get yourself an English Bulldog. Unlike a pit bull, they won’t tear your kid’s face off when you pop out for a loaf of bread, but they will savagely attack an interloper. Our guy Weezy is a peach with our kids, but somebody looks at one of us cross-eyed and he will sink his teeth into flesh and bone with a fury and purpose unparalleled in the animal kingdom. And we had his nuts cut off. Imagine what he’d do with a full set! The mind reels.

So, you’ve groveled for a few days and fortified your bunker. Now it’s time to plead insanity – or the modern version of it, anyway: enter rehab. Make sure to have your publicist spin it just right so everybody gets the message: that wasn’t Fat Mike backhanding a fan to the ground and then drop kicking him in the face when he was defenseless – it was the drugs!

Now, I see you’ve already made some tentative moves in that direction, and that’s good, but not good enough. The idea that painkillers and a sore neck made you commit a felonious attack on a friendly stranger is a bit of a stretch. You need to prove you’re a walking disaster – you need to do your 28 days. And let’s face it, considering that you’ve been reduced to a physical and mental wreck thanks to years of drug and alcohol abuse, it might not be such a bad idea anyway. And you could actually have a little fun! You’d be surprised how many of those 12-steppers have a sense of humor.

The goal here is to convince people that you weren’t in your right mind. Never mind that you’ve done plenty of this stuff before, from spitting on fans to throwing bottles at women’s heads from the stage. If it’s not documented on YouTube, it didn’t happen. You did, however, get caught on video viciously and brutally beating a fan for trying to hug you. Let’s be honest – you’re lucky you’re not sitting in a jail cell right now. Your offer to buy him a beer was hopelessly lame. Come on. The mob isn’t going to be impressed with that, besides which, the guy’s lip is so swollen, torn and bruised from its encounter with the business end of your Doc Marten he won’t be drinking anything for a week.

By the way, you need to stop having your manager stick up for you on social media. It looks dogshit. When he berates some clown on your label for making a lame, feeble joke about this incident and then the guy frantically deletes his tweet, it does not reflect well on you. This is the time for your friends to stand up for you, not your employees. Being who you are, you attract a lot of barnacles and parasites. Take this opportunity to find out once and for all who’s really got your back and who’s just there for the free blow and the opportunity to do business with you. Your employees need to shut up and stay the course.

Now, I had the bad fortune of having a petty, vindictive jagoff for a label owner back during my trouble, and his employees – and even the other bands on his label – followed his lead when he threw me under the bus. He didn’t give a shit who I punched – his problem with me was that his delicate ego had been bruised because somebody got in his ear and convinced him I’d written a mean song about him on the album I’d just released on his label. Paranoia is a hell of a drug. Like I wouldn’t have crowed and gloated till the cows came home if I’d pulled off something that brilliant! That would’ve been one of the great “fuck you” moments in punk; I’d’ve milked every drop of publicity from it and I’m deeply offended by the idea that I’d deny having done it.

But that’s the disadvantage of putting yourself at the financial mercy of a silly, vain, spoiled rich kid. You used to be on Epitaph – you get it. Those kinds of people always kick you when you’re down (hmm, maybe that was a bad choice of words…). But you – you’re in the catbird seat, my friend! You hold the careers of your employees and the bands on your label in the palm of your hand! You’re like a chubbier, dimmer Caesar! You can ruin those smart-alecks if they don’t toe the line, and don’t think they don’t know it! So make sure each and every one of them keeps his mouth shut. Let ‘em know they’ll never work in this town again if they cross you. Sure, they already know it, but it can’t hurt to underline and bold it for them. Then when the smoke clears, you can end radio silence and have your publicist set up a mea culpa tour for you straight out of rehab. You’ll be back serving your audience shots of liquor laced with your own urine in no time at all!

Finally, take some time off. Do your rehab and your apology tour, then take a break. People will have had more than enough Fat Mike by then, and if time doesn’t heal all wounds, it at least helps the scars fade a little. Get some rest and write.

Come to think of it, you were talking about writing a musical a few years ago. Whatever happened to that? This is the perfect time to pick that project back up. After my e-lynching, I hunkered down and wrote an opera about a sociopathic, egomaniacal musician and his merry band of sycophants, leeches and toadies. It’s called Baby Fat and we’re just about done recording the first act with Mike Kennerty of the All-American Rejects. Blag Dahlia from the Dwarves sings the title role; Kat Spazzy (from the great Australian band the Spazzys) sings the female lead, and I’m singing the role of the overgrown frat boy rock star, Tommy Swank. It also features, among others, Todd C. from Toys That Kill, Roger Lima from Less Than Jake and Line Dahlmann from the brilliant Dahlmanns. It’s been great fun and it helped me channel a lot of the nonsense of the past few years into something positive and productive. I’d be glad to give you a few pointers on writing a libretto (it’s tougher than it looks!) and when Screeching Weasel plays San Francisco and LA after the album comes out on Recess Records next June, we’d love for you to come out to the show; we’re hoping to raise the money to dedicate a section of our set to a mini-production of Baby Fat. I think you’ll get a kick (!) out of it.

And as I noted earlier, Screeching Weasel is playing bigger and better shows than ever. Take a little vacation out to Chicago to see us at the Concord Music Hall on November 22nd. We’re playing with the Queers, Flatfoot 56 and of course, the Dwarves. (Let’s just hope Blag doesn’t punch any ladies!)

Chin up, Fatty – great art can come from this, and you can take a well-deserved break from all the punk politics and scenester nonsense you’ve been immersed in lo these many years. Of course, you’re always going to be stuck with that footage of you kicking a defenseless fan in the face for daring to touch you, but hey, that’s better than having to settle a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, right?

So welcome to the Carnival of Schadenfreude, Fat Mike. The bad news is, you’re stuck here for the rest of your life. The good news? You’ve got me for a seatmate, you lucky duck, you!

Besties!

Ben Weasel