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

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

Lookout! Or Else. More Ben Weasel

 

So Larry Livermore put out a book about Lookout Records and appearently misrepresents Screeching Weasel based off of info from John “Jughead”. Less than surprising considering that a lot of the scene is hell bent on maligning Ben Weasel.

-Maty Almost

Now for Ben’s posted thoughts on the book.

So, this Lookout Records book that just came out – what a mess. It focuses way more on SW than I’d imagined it would. If I’d known I was living that comfortably and rent-free in Larry’s head I’d’ve done a few things differently.

But the main thing is the factual errors. And not just the author. You’ve got band members who had no idea what was going on discussing business they had nothing to do with and talking dumb shit.

One example: the author asserts that we supposedly had a deal with Lookout to put Homosexual on MBH and reneged on it. Presumably John is his source since he’s the one quoted.

What actually happened was that Larry refused to sign a deal with us so we agreed with Shred of Dignity to do the Pervo-Devo EP well before signing with Lookout – weeks if not months in advance. Larry refused to agree to release MBH till it was about halfway mixed, and only after I gave him an ultimatum when he 1. started insinuating that he wasn’t going to sign us if we didn’t put Science of Myth as the first track and 2. asked me to renege on our deal with SoD and add Homosexual. I said, “sorry pal, I already have a deal with Matt at SoD. He was willing to take a chance on us when you weren’t.” Matt was in the studio doing a photo shoot with me and Bruce LaBruce for the Pervo-Devo sleeve and Larry hectored and berated the shit out of him trying to get him to give the song up, to no avail. By the time he suggested putting the song on both records he’d alienated Matt to the point where Matt wasn’t even willing to do that (and it seemed dumb and cheap to me anyway to put it on both releases, not that Larry was asking my opinion at that point).

And of course John keeps referring to Matt as “Bruce LaBruce.” Maybe all gay guys look the same to him. Anyway, I was no saint back then, but accusing me of reneging on a deal when it was literally the exact opposite of what I did in spite of a lot of pressure – Larry threatened not to sign us and we had a $750 studio bill to pay, not to mention a dead van and no money to fix it and get back to Chicago from California – is a bit much.

Gub, who played on one tour with us and ended up on a long out of print live radio EP is credited with having been an actual member (he wasn’t – he was filling in till we found someone permanent. Nice guy, but he wasn’t in the band) and, remarkably with having played on two tours, and on the Wiggle album. I mean, all you had to do was look at the jacket to know that’s wrong. Come on.

Our first album apparently cost $200 to make. I wish I hadn’t put in all those hours at the warehouse to pay the $1000 studio bill then! And this is something that has been documented publicly. In fact I’m 99% sure it’s on the liner notes of one of our anthologies. Somebody Google it if you give a shit.

That’s off the top of my head, and I’ve only skimmed this thing so far. Look, the author asked me to participate and I declined so I have only myself to blame for not being the voice of reason responding to John’s many fanciful tales of days of yore but stuff like completely blowing an easily verifiable thing like who played on an album – I don’t get that. Then again, I’ve never tried to write a book like this so maybe this is par for the course. I guess I’ll have to write my own book someday.

-Ben Weasel