February 29th, 2012 | Published in TCS Reviews
By Pete Roche
Larry Keith Lewis went into the doctor’s office in October 2010 thinking his physician would send him away with a prescription for his sore throat. Instead, the punk rocker walked out with a diagnosis of Stage IV cancer and a new appreciation for life’s small things and precious moments.
Best known for his guitar work in 1970s-80s Cleveland-based groups like The Offbeats, AK-47s, Broncs, Lurid, and New Salem Witch Hunters, Larry “Lair” Matic had several tracks on the influential underground Cleveland Confidential collections and was a permanent fixture in the club scene for years. He’d always been a fighter—an underdog scurrying to get his music heard in an unforgiving market full of vacuous synth-pop and hair metal. So he took to chemotherapy with the tenacity of a challenger stepping into the ring for a prize fight.
Still, haste was in order. Lair scrambled to tie loose ends and organize his affairs. He knew music would be his legacy, and when The Cleveland Sound spoke with the ill-but-upbeat Matic last year, he was busy compiling old, unreleased recordings and mixing new studio material. He wasn’t leaving this Earth without a fight—or a swan song.
Lair Matic Assembly is that swan song. Released by the Chicago-based (but Cleveland-friendly) Smog Veil, the new 7” is the last will and testament of a musician who knew the gig was over but was determined to take one final curtain call. Limited to 100 7-inch pressings on black vinyl, Assembly is a dichotomy of punk, with exuberant rocker “Out of My Hands” embracing Lair’s uppity half, and B-side “To My Friends (It’s Okay)” the guitarist’s poetic farewell.
Joined by longtime pals Nick Summa (Floydband), Cheese Borger (Pink Holes), and Steve-O (Death of Samantha), Lair dominates the mix with his blessedly old-school guitar sound. Sadly, the disease had ravaged his voice by this time; Matic’s verses are intelligible but breathy and strained, and it’s apparent the guy struggled with a lot of pain during the sessions. Regardless, the result is an all-too-brief celebration of life and musical camaraderie that serves as fitting tribute to a man who devoted himself to guitar, for better or worse, and gave his all to the scene even when rock and roll fortune had long passed him by. Assembly is the sound of courage—the soundtrack for a private heavyweight championship wherein the proud warrior-contender parries and jabs, keeping his chin up even when Death delivers the final blow.
The disc sells for a suggested $4.00, with Smog Veil profits going to the Hospice of the Western Reserve in Lair’s memory. The record includes a digital download card—so even those without a turntable can access both songs in mp3 format and keep the vinyl as a keepsake.
Oh, and I already bought one, so there’s only 99 left for all of you. Check My Mind’s Eye in Lakewood or Music Saves in Collinwood for yours.
Interview with Lair Matic: www.theclevelandsound.com/?p=6995