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May 5, 2006

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It's about damn time. Avail is a much beloved punk band out of Richmond, Virginia known for their blue collar style and attitude. They are the punk rock everymen. I can vividly remember my first Avail experience, as most people that I know can. It was 1998 (yes, I was a little late on the band). They were touring with Snapcase. So, five of my friends and I piled into a tiny car and made our way to the Wetlands in New York City. With the manner of the club's layout, this was a tiny a place with high ceilings. Imagine a basement show where the basement had cathedral style vaulted ceilings and that sums this place up in a kind of sort of type of way. In other words?°¦this was one of the best places to see them or rather participate in an Avail show. They blew the lid off that joint and my mind. It was a blast doing stage dives along with Beau Beau and singing along to songs that I barely knew. This show made "Connection" my absolute favorite Avail song ever. It will never be topped for me.

Over the years since that fateful first show, I have seen Avail a bunch of times. Three things can always be counted on when they roll into town. One, it will be a load of fun. Two, no matter what, you will sing along with the band (if you don't, you miss the point and miss out on said fun.) Three, no matter how much or hard you jump, stage dive, or run around like a maniac, Beau Beau will put you to shame.

On record, Avail maintains a similar motif. They make long drives shorter. Their Satiate LP single handedly helped me to cope and finish my senior thesis in college. I literally listened to that record for 16 hours straight as I pulled an all-nighter to finish that damn paper. Thanks to Avail, the energy that blared on those head phones kept me energized enough to complete that paper. This is a testament to how great they are, how much fun they are, and their total inability to get old. I never tire of listening to them, and their music always brings a smile to my face.

Please, forgive the long explanation of sorts for how good Avail is. But, I try to never take for granted that everyone knows who bands are or has heard them all. This long winded dissertation is actually meant to celebrate and review the three reissues of early records that Jade Tree has recently released. Not only are the albums represented in full, but the band has included various 7"s, live records, splits, compilation tracks, and covers on them as bonus tracks. Dixie has the Attempt to Regress 7" and the Live at the King's Head Inn 10" (which was only around for a short time on CD) added to it. 4AM Friday has the Live at the Bottom of the Hill record added to it. Over the James has their songs from the split with the Young Pioneers as well as some great covers on it as well. The artwork has also been updated and modernized on them all by Auxiliary (This is especially neat as the bird from Over the
James is spread out over the spines of the three CDs and the flagman from Dixie is spread out on the opposites spines.)

Dixie is a non stop raging album that has only been enhanced with the Attempt to Regress 7". It absolutely seethes with energy. This is my personal favorite of the three reissues. Classic Avail songs such as "On the Nod", "Clone" (with its "Rise, Rise?°¦" part), "Virus" (the "Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey?°¦Yeah" song), and "Southbound
95" are all represented here. There are also other good songs like "25 Years", "Beliefs Pile" (Where Tim starts "To be the one to swallow my pride?°¦"), "Model", and the John Mellancamp cover "Pink Houses". This album is a classic. As you listen to it, you realize just how many great songs are on this. "Connection" is also on here in studio form which only makes the record better. The Live at the King's Head Inn tracks are surprisingly good considering that it originated from a sound board recorded cassette. It is a very energetic set and captures the band in its early years.

4 AM Friday is much the same vein as its predecessor Dixie except for a few new nuances of melody. "Simple Song", "Monroe Park", "F.C.A.", and "Nameless" are all great Avail songs that make their home on this record as does a few underrated songs like "Armchair", "Hang", "McCarthy", and their version of the old spiritual "Swing Low". With this reissue, the added bonus is the Live at the Bottom of the Hill album that was indicative of how the band sounded live at the time that they recorded their following fourth LP. There are two songs from what would be Over the James as well as a good assortment of songs from their other records with the glaring exception of "Connection" that always bothered me about this live album. It actually made me prefer that of the Live at the King's Head Inn record more. But combined with 4 AM Friday, this is a welcome addition to your Avail collection.

Over the James is the third of the three reissues that Jade Tree has released to the public. There is a marked evolution for the band by this album. It is heavy on melody and their anthemic song writing truly comes out on this album. It is what I would consider their best album musically by this point (being the time of its original release and possibly even still). It is a solid album all the way through its length. Avail lays down several live staples on this record: "Lombardy St.", "Nickel Bridge", "Scuffletown", and "Sanctuary". I also dig "August" (which I have yet to hear them play live.) With the reissue, Avail's split with the Young Pioneers is included here as well as a few comp tracks one of which is from the long out of print Land of Greed World of Need Embrace covers compilation that came out a long time ago. Avail's song was "Said Gun" (which, as I said, is included here). Their cover of Billy Joel's "You May Be Right" is pretty good.

I must admit that listening to these three albums so intensively has made me appreciate them in a whole new light. These three Avail albums are awesome. They really showcase their anthemic and melodic brand of punk rock. The extras on the albums made me go out and grab these up quickly. I would consider the Over the James reissue the most worth repurchasing if anyone owns the originals of these. Dixie is also well worth the price. Admittedly, 4 AM Friday is my least favorite of the reissues but it also only has the Live at the Bottom of the Hill as bonus material (and I already owned them both which made it tougher to repurchase this one). Anyone, who owns not a single one of these, needs to wake up and get them immediately. These are crucial records for anyone into melodic punk rock.

Dixie: 9.0/10
4 AM Friday: 8.0/10
Over the James : 9.0/10

8.7 / 10

Scene Point Blank

Bob Morgan