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When a punk band makes the slightest move toward a more melodic sound, it's enough to whip the hardcore masses into a frenzied chant of "sellout." The Richmond, Va.-based punk ensemble Avail has made that risky move on their latest release, 4AM Friday. Far from being a sellout maneuver, it works -- not a shred of their punk credibility is gone, and the songs are as anthemic as ever. As much as some punks don't like to hear it, the melodic move shows a maturity in songwriting rather than a growing weakness. On 4AM Friday, Avail finally convey the energy of their live shows -- something that previous recorded efforts lacked. Collectively, the songs are laced with a strong D.C. flavor, like a less artsy, less politically correct, more fluid Fugazi (tracks such as "Tuesday and McCarthy" contain lyrics centering on politics and personal struggles) -- hardly surprising, considering their Richmond roots. Overall, 4AM Friday makes a good case for seeing Avail live.

-- Robert Arriaga

Avail play Tuesday, June 17, at 9 p.m. at the Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. Criminals and Black Fork open. Tickets are $6 at the door; call 621-4455.

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