The Upshot: Who you callin’ honey?: From minimalist, brooding blooze to shuddery surf-rock to moments of pure celebration, the erstwhile Tim Lee 3 members serve notice that they are in the house and here to stay.
BY FRED MILLS
Although Knoxville’s beloved Tim Lee 3 has been put up on blocks for the time being, following a ten-year, six-album run, 2/3 of that ensemble—spouses Tim Lee and Susan Bauer Lee—is still very much in action as Bark. In fact, the guitar/drums duo were road-testing as far back as 2015, when they released Let’s Go Dancing Down on Gator Lake Road… Shake That Thang Till Our Heads Explode, a live-in-studio mini-album that revealed a rawer, bluesier side to the Lees. Now comes Year of the Dog, which is a bit more fleshed out than LGDDOGLRSTTTOHE; they don’t follow the White Stripes 2-person template, instead adding bass guitar as desired (Susan handled bass in the Tim Lee 3, but here, both share duties), and a handful of guests contribute everything from percussion to Moog to handclaps. But it’s no less visceral in feel, a garagey—at times, surf-toned—set that’s all killer, no filler.
The record is available on thick black vinyl, w/download card, or on CD, but the striking thematic sleeve art really demands that the consumer possess the full-sized artifact, because it is genuinely is art, created by Susan. Hang it on your wall and you’ll get a response at the next gathering.
Things kick off on a minor-key note via “How You Gonna Miss Me,” a low-slung, low-pitched number highlighted by the intriguing contrast of Tim’s droning baritone guitar and Susan’s insistent kit thump. Indeed, a number of tracks here are of a distinctive brooding sort—the somber, trudging “Interstate Blues”; the Western-tinged “Elbmur” (if the instrumental starts to sound somewhat familiar after a couple of listens, well… read the title backwards; it would make a terrific murder ballad if lyrics were added); minimalist blooze “World of Regret.” One hesitates to read too much into the Lees’ equally downcast lyrics, but knowing that they’ve experienced several significant personal losses over the past year or so, it’s hard not to think that they were working through some pain as they wrote these songs.
Elsewhere on the album, the Bark musical purview is compellingly broad, from the quirkysexybluesycool “Lazarus” (Susan turns in one of her finest vocals to date here) and the shuddery surf motifs of “Living Under Water,” to psychedelic raveup “The Only Cure” and the hilarious road trip that is “One-Eyed Driving” (improbably enough, it suggests a classic hill country-styled blues transformed into a surf anthem). The latter tune’s cheeky Snoop Dogg lyrical invocation—“I got my mind on my honey, and my honey on my mind”—seals the deal, and it also serves as a righteous declaration of devotion for this rock ‘n’ roll couple.
Incidentally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that Year of the Dog is a 12-songer, with the vinyl only having 11 of those 12 tracks. Never fear, wax devotees: The final track, the upbeat, celebratory rocker “Ends of the World,” is included with the digital download. It’s a terrific number, too.
DOWNLOAD: “Living Under Water,” “Elbmur,” “World of Regret”
Ed. note: elsewhere on the BLURT site you can read our 2015 Tim Lee 3 interview as well as our 2017 look back at Tim’s early power pop band The Windbreakers.