Music Reviews


Front Porch Stories

Fat Wreck Chords

It was once mandatory for hardcore devotees to have that black and white Avail patch conspicuously affixed to their army green backpack; sewing it on was a right of passage, or so it seemed. Whether this is still true, I don’t know, as I haven’t attended a hardcore show in nearly seven years. Although I never had that Avail patch myself, their 1994 debut release Satiate was, and still is, one of my favorite hardcore albums. Avail’s approach to hardcore was different than other bands. Their’s wasn’t that chug-chug formulaic schlock over which straight-edge boys exercised pseudo-kung-fu moves and other nonsensical body contortions. Avail’s sound was just as authoritative, but had resonant undertones without being too tacky. Front Porch Stories continues this tradition of simple, unassuming four chord anthems over which insightful lyrics are sung, and at times screamed.

The notion of front porch stories evokes a very specific and apropos theme that subsumes the album. It’s about getting old(er) and trying to make sense of the mutability of it all. Sittin’ on the front porch in one’s proverbial rocker, sipping lemonade (likely spiked with Mr. Daniels’ sweet nectar) and reminiscing on days gone by. The album’s artwork alone speaks to this overarching assumption. The inlay is a pastiche of nostalgic images. Photos from past shows, weddings and newborns, fliers collected over the years and other random iconography provide a scrap book of Avail memories. As if that is not enough, brooding lyrics buttress this sense of time passing: “I keep screaming, but hear only vibrations/Been at this too long/Twice said, one/I should set sail, I should sail” (“Gravel To Dirt”); “We burn out before we fade away/Losing time and not changing anything” (“Verses”); or at a most salient moment, “I sat back to consider what has been within a decade counted/Should I fly? Should I settle?/ Will I find peace in time, in the face of growing old?” (“The Falls”).

Yet, if this album signifies a momentary rumination of one’s grownup reality, Avail’s music still maintains the punch of youthful virility. While at times it may seem convenient to argue that Front Porch Stories’ angst-ridden melodic punk is formulaic and a bit generic in today’s context, one must remember that Avail has been doing this for years and they are certainly not attempting to regurgitate some post-Green Day drivel. Avail is by no means derivative. Their song structure may be simple, but it is not hackneyed. In fact, after being around for almost a decade, I believe they are one of the first punk bands to incorporate slide guitar into their song structure (“West Wry”). That said, Front Porch Stories is perhaps the band’s most solid and mature effort thus far, proving that age doesn’t necessary encumber and subdue.

Fat Wreck Chords:

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