No Use For A Name – Rarities Vol. 1: The Covers
Released: August 11th 2017
No Use For A Name line up:
Tony Sly –Vocals, Guitar
Chris Shifflet – Guitar (tracks 1,2,3,8,9,11,12,13)
Dave Nassie – Guitar (tracks 4,5,6,7,10)
Matt Riddle – Bass, Vocals
Rory Koff – Drums
The passing of Tony Sly, in 2012 remains one of the biggest loses to music this century (at least in this writer’s opinion). For someone so talented to die so young is just heartbreaking. The last album that No Use For A Name released, 2008’s The Feel Good Record of the Year remains one of their most impressive endeavours. As a band, they had gone from strength to strength and Tony’s songwriting just seemed to get better and better. All we have left is their legacy – and what an amazing legacy it is. Short of some completely unreleased tracks popping up, we will never get any new music from NUFAN, but what we are getting is a collection of rarities, courtesy of Fat Wreck Chords. The first volume is a collection of covers and it’s something pretty special.
Turning pop songs and whatnot into punk songs is pretty much a staple of the punk genre. If a band doesn’t have one silly cover in their repertoire then they just aren’t doing it right. And the opening track, ‘Turning Japanese’ (The Vapors) is a great example of this. It’s totally kitsch and the cover is all amounts of fun. The original is not a song that has stood the test of time very well, but that makes this cover all the more enjoyable, and the band just has fun with it. The Misfits classic, ‘Hybrid Moments’ follows and is a definite highlight on the album. I originally thought that Tony was doing a bit of a Danzig impression, but when you think about it, it’s almost impossible not to sound a little bit like Danzig when singing these melodies. Whatever the case is, it’s a fucking excellent cover and a great example of how easily this band slip between the various punk sub-genres. And they take it further again by getting into some legit hardcore by covering Dag Nasty and D.I. The latter being ‘Selwyn’s Got a Problem’* which features the vocals of bassist Matt Riddle (I think?). Which makes for an interesting change of pace.
There is a lot of gold on this album, but nothing makes me happier (and simultaneously sadder) than their cover of ‘Badfish’, by Sublime. Sublime is another band that lost its vocalist at a tragically young age. Bradley Nowell is one of my favourite vocalists of all time (in fact, probably only second to Tony Sly**) and his songwriting style would require a degree in musicology to dissect properly. The real tragedy here is that this cover was recorded for a tribute album for Sublime. It’s actually heartbreaking. At any rate, this is a great cover of a really good song. The cover keeps it sounding like a NUFAN song, but maintains the beauty of the original work – and Tony’s voice just soars, it’s simply breathtaking. For fans who may have heard it before you’ll notice that this sounds far nicer than the original release of the song – which is something I assume can be attributed to the mastering process. Up next is Cheap Trick’s ‘Dream Police’, which is probably the most recent cover fans of NUFAN will recognise – it was on Fat Wreck’s Harder, Fatter, Louder which dropped in 2010 (although the track was recorded much earlier and may have also appeared elsewhere). This is a really solid example of Tony’s spectacular vocal range– seriously, some of these lines are high as fuck. More than that, this song just plain old rocks.
‘Fairytale of New York’ (The Pogues) is up next, which is probably the one song every fan will be familiar with as it features on NUFAN’s 1999 album, More Betterness. Covering a song that is so well revered can be tricky, but this is one of those times where it works really well. It doesn’t hurt that the song features guest vocals from Meegan Lair (of Soda). I’m not sure that many vocalists could pull this cover off – but together they capture the emotionality that is at the core of this song while putting their own spin on the back-and-forth nature of the vocals. It’s also impressive in how the guitars and bass are used to emulate the original melody of the song – it can be easy to forget that much of what made NUFAN such a great band was their ability to create and carry these intricate instrumental melodies throughout their songs.
There are many more tracks to this record, but I’ll let you discover them for yourself – both because it’s fun and also that this would turn into a novella if I spent any more time talking about individual tracks. At the end of the day, for fans of punk music, this is a great record and there is more than enough here to justify adding this one to your collection. But for the die-hard NUFAN fans, this album is an absolute must. You might have heard most (or even all) of these songs before, but the quality has never been this great and I guarantee that hearing it will bring a giant smile to your face.
*Originally this D.I. track is called ‘Johnny’s Got A Problem’.
**If you’re looking for something fun you can find NUFAN performing ‘Redemption Song’ at Warped Tour with Brad joining them on stage. It’s chaotic and wonderful and I highly recommend it if you’re a fan of the bands.
No Use For A Name – Rarities Vol. 1: The Covers tracklisting:
1: Turning Japanese (The Vapors)
2: Hybrid Moments (The Misfits)
3: I’ve Heard (Dag Nasty)
4: Selwyn’s Got a Problem (D.I.)
5: Enjoy the Silence (Depeche Mode)
6: Badfish (Sublime)
7: Dream Police (Cheap Trick)
8: Fairytale of New York (The Pogues)
9: Make Our Dreams Come True (Laverne and Shirley)
10: 1945 (Social Distortion)
11: Don’t Cry for Me Argentina (Evita)
12: The Munster’s Theme (The Munsters)
13: Beth (KISS)
Rarities Vol. 1: The Covers is out August 11 via Fat Wreck Chords
Review by Dave Mullins