Bark: Year of the Dog

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

Bark's rock and roll songs are fueled equally by restlessness and compassion for life.

Tim and Susie Lee are rock and roll lifers, stubbornly committed to an art form that has, if you believe the alarmist hype, been on life support for the past decade or so. If the form is perceived to have aged less than gracefully in the mass-marketed public eye, it is, nonetheless, people like the Lees others like them in small, mostly urban scenes on the periphery of the big business who keep its heart beating strong. Honestly, a devoted rock and roll fan doesn't need the big labels anymore, and though the giants keep leaving us (RIP Malcolm, Fats, Tom, and Chuck), their influence continues to echo throughout the underground and can still be heard in small clubs just about any evening of the week.


Year of the Dog

(Striped Light)

Release Date: 6 Oct 2017

Tim was one-half of the Windbreakers in the '80s, who like many Southern bands influenced by garage rock and power pop found themselves recording with Mitch Easter (most famous, of course, for producing R.E.M.s first three records). Lee was even a touring member of Easter's band, Let's Active, and became a sought-after sideman on countless recordings over the years. After the Windbreakers, Tim released a string of well-received solo records that slowly merged into a new band configuration when Susie, as the story goes, woke up one morning and decided to learn bass guitar. Capturing her own growing confidence as an instrumentalist and vocalist, the Tim Lee 3 released five full-length records (with Chris Bratta filling the seat behind the drum kit for their final three records) culminating in 2016's excellent farewell disc Tin, Man. The ever-striving Susan again woke one morning and decided that she should learn drums, and what began as a side project that produced 2015's EP let's go dancing down on gator lake road/shake that thang til our heads explode, Bark is now the Lee's primary band.

Bark's debut full-length Year of the Dog continues in the swampy, garage blues of its predecessor, adding a dollop of pop and a bit of good old-fashioned rock and roll to that formula. Tim takes lead vocals on most of the slower songs, talk-singing his wry lyrics of the road, always with a keen eye peeled for the turn-off into the darker back road, that alternate route that leads away from the staid and towards those more interesting accidents of a life lived on the edge. "We'll run the bases, baby," he sings at one point, "It's gonna leave a mark." "Lazarus" combines a go-go guitar lick and surf beat to create a scenario wherein the risen hermit seems ready to join Annette and the gang at the bonfire and weenie roast. Meanwhile, "Your Love Is the Only Cure" is a driving and sweet testament to the Lee's longstanding marriage of more than 35 years (70 in rock and roll years).

The Lees even take on topical fair on Year of the Dog, with two of the album's standout cuts addressing America's current condition. Susan takes the lead in both, offering both a feminist spark and maternal compassion. On "Revolution #None" she sings, "Come on down to my revolution, another man speaking is more noise pollution" while, later, in "Living Under Water", she offers the equally cutting lines, "The best we can hope for is Jesus really shows up / Sees the mess that we've made and says 'What the fuck?' / Man I gave you a garden that you managed to slaughter / Now, good luck with all that, you'll all be living underwater." The songs are both hilarious and poignant, evoking hopefulness amidst the doubt.

The album's 12 tracks pass by fast, like dusty mile markers momentarily captured in the headlights of a jalopy speeding down a country road to nowhere in particular but bound to get interesting. These are songs fueled equally by restlessness and compassion for life. The recording is crisp and clean, which may be the only arguable flaw here: the studio simply can't recreate the ominous, feral growl of Bark playing live in a small club, like their home base at Knoxville, Tennessee's Pilot Light. In all, though, it's a hell of a trip and a convincing counterpoint to anyone who would argue that rock and roll's time is past.

Related Articles Around the Web




90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.


Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

A Lesson from the Avengers for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.


Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.


Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.


First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?


HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.


Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.


How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.


Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.


Paul Weller Dazzles with the Psychedelic and Soulful 'On Sunset'

Paul Weller's On Sunset continues his recent streak of experimental yet tuneful masterworks. More than 40 years into his musical career, Weller sounds as fresh and inspired as ever.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.