Album Reviews, Headlines

Review: Various Artists – The Songs of Tony Sly: A Tribute

tonslyIt’s difficult to separate Tony Sly the solo artist from No Use For a Name the band. Through the years the band were at their most popular, Sly was synonymous with the name and their craft. Yet it often forgotten the band were around for several years without Sly at the helm. But the truth is, while much of their earliest New Red Archives material exhibits a far “rawer” quality to it, it was with Sly that No Use For a Name became a household name in punk around the globe. Bridging the gap between melody and aggression, Sly’s songs were crafted with the backbone established in albums like Incognito, but embraced the kinds of harmonies that defined that generation’s brand of punk. And with it, No Use For a Name along with helped punk become a more visible form of musical expression.

His death was, and still is, an immensely sad and tragic occurrence whose ripple effect continues on in the community in which he was such an important part of. Now over a year since, some of his closest friends and contemporaries have put together The Songs Of Tony Sly: A Tribute, a stellar compilation that is both a homage, and a sombre remembering of Sly and his work over the years.

It would have been easy to have limited the tribute to up-tempo, melodic punk the band was synonymous with. And while the best track on here, Strung Out’s blistering cover of “Soulmate”, is just that, the work on show here goes to prove that Sly was more than just power chords and great melodies. From the opening subtle touch of Karina Danike’s cover of “Biggest Lie” (from NUFAN’s final studio album) to the ska-flavored rocksteady of Mad Caddies’ “AM” and Snuff’s almost-calypso like rendition of “On The Outside”, the diverse reconfigurations of the songs here are a great barometer of how far reaching Sly and his bandmates were in terms of the kinds of different artists they connected with.

Songs that were originally done with razor sharp distortion and hard hitting percussions are turned into acoustic-tinged reflections of musical vulnerability. Like Alkaline Trio’s almost macabre toned “Straight From The Jacket” or even Simple Plan’s weirdly bouncy reworking of one of No Use’s best tracks “Justified Black Eye”. In a sense, the latter is the one serious flaw of the album; it is a very off-putting rendition that probably has more to do with the original version being what it is (the long lasting resonance of that song done in its original form) than Simple Plan’s take on it.

The tribute’s most affecting moment is perhaps Rise Against’s cover of “For Fiona”. Tim McIlrath flies solo with a melancholy take of the song, one about Sly’s love for his daughter. In it Sly sings; “So you stay young while I get old / But always know, I’m your best friend”, and when McIlrath sings this in his piercing voice, there is an incredible sadness and finality to Sly’s passing. It’s clear how much he loved his family and when you listen to this song, you’re all but made aware of how real it is.

Purchasing this album digitally means you’re given a few extra tracks that are a nice addition to the mix. The bonus tracks include The Swellers’ version of “Chasing Rainbows” and a fantastic piano-only rendition of “International You Day” by Ryan Hardester which closes out the project in fitting and beautiful fashion.

For fans of Sly and No Use For a Name, this compilation (purchasing it) is perhaps the closest we’ll get to a contribution to his legacy. I’ve written about how Sly and his music affected me on the other side of the globe and feel that, with proceeds going to the Tony Sly Memorial Fund, this compilation is a small, but honest way of saying “thank you” to a man whose music changed people close to him, people who knew him in passing, and of course, people like me he never met.

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Listen to Strung Out’s cover of “Soulmate”:

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The Songs Of Tony Sly: A Tribute is available now via Fat Wreck

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Sight & Sound

Listen to Strung Out’s cover of “Soulmate”

With Fat Wreck’s A Tribute To Tony Sly, the label has given fans a chance to hear many different interpretations of Sly’s work by many of his close friends and contemporaries. It’s a great cause and a way for fans to remember some of the great songs Sly wrote through his years as frontman for No Use For a Name.

To help spread the word of  the release, Strung Out’s rather magnificent cover of No Use For A Name’s “Soulmate” is now online for you hear.

Has anything ever sounded so glorious?

No one does melodic urgency as good as Strung Out and with “Soulmate” being right up their (velvet) alley, this cover is a perfect amalgamation of the great qualities that both bands possess/possessed.

A Tribute To Tony Sly is available starting today via Fat Wreck and proceeds from the release will go to the Tony Sly Memorial Fund.

If you were ever a fan of No Use For a Name, buy the record as the digital download is only $10.

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Featured, Music

Invincible: Rest In Peace Tony Sly

How does one find the right words? For someone who admired and respected Tony Sly from a distance, the day has been part coming to terms of what has happened and part sheer disbelief. Almost two decades since I first came across No Use For A Name, the music Sly and his bandmates wrote still resonate greatly, and a small part of myself just wanted to do what I’m sure he had done for so long; write down and express the many things that brewed beneath the surface.

Leche Con Carne and their spot on Survival Of The Fattest were my introduction to the band and I was immediately taken aback by songs like “Soulmate” and “Justified Black Eye”, music that could be both urgent and accessible. Their music was and is a perfect blend of aggression and unrelenting melody. It’s my kind of tune.

I can’t profess to know much about him, but from his music I know that he had a daughter, liked Irish music and that he made many friends on the tour circuit. The latter easy to see with so many of his contemporaries expressing their sadness today, and it’s a pretty definitive list of bands I grew up with, loved and listened: The Bouncing Souls, Less than Jake, Face to Face, Strung Out, Bad Religion, The Ataris.

I saw No Use For a Name live twice. Once back in 99/00 at Slim’s in San Francisco when they opened for NOFX, and the second at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne on their Keep Them Confused tour. Both shows were energized by Tony’s enthusiasm; no matter how long it seemed he’d been touring. And I for one, am happy I got to see some of my favorite songs performed from the best place possible; from the pit.

No one would ever call me a musician (one of the bands I was in back in the day covered “Straight From The Jacket” if that means anything) so I guess this is just from a fan. I never got to meet Tony, and I can’t imagine what his family and close friends are dealing with at the moment. But for someone who grew up on the other side of the planet, his music traveled across oceans and through borders and changed the life of some kid he never met. I don’t know why he died and I don’t really want to know, but I wanted to say thanks.

“Somebody get me off this lonely sad parade.
The differences a hundred miles, but a couple months away.
I’m saying hello just to say goodbye.”

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Music

Fat Wreck returns to the compilation game

For many people outside of North America, Fat Wreck Chords early compilation series was their introduction to the melodic punk genre. It brought to the world the music of Strung Out, No Use For a Name, Propagandhi, Bracket, Frenzal Rhomb and NOFX to areas previously virgin to the fast and furious sounds of 90s punk. More than 15 years since Survival of the Fattest, Fat Wreck has announced the latest installment of the Fat series, and the first in some 8 years.

Titled Harder, Fatter + Louder!, the mix features Fat Wreck staple artists alongside their most recent artistic acquisitions, including The Flatliners, Cobra Skulls and Teenage Bottlerocket. Veteran compilation-ers Strung Out, No Use, NOFX and Good Riddance make an appearance.

The release is slated for a November 23rd release. In the era of crappy digital samplers, free downloads and shitty bands, it is great to see Fat Wreck still doing the old thing in a good way.  One a side note, Survival of the Fattest is still one of the best cheapo compilations ever made.

Tracklist:
01. Old Man Markley – “For Better, For Worse”
02. The Flatliners – “The Calming Collection
03. Swingin Utters – “Brand New Lungs”
04. Mad Caddies – “Why Must I Wait”
05. Banner Pilot – “Greenwood”
06. Pour Habit – “Heads of State”
07. Dead To Me – “X”
08. Teenage Bottlerocket – “Skate or Die”
09. Cobra Skulls – “Hot Sand”
10. Tony Sly – “Via Munich”
11. None More Black – “Sinatra After Dark”
12. Chixdiggit! – “Miso Ramen”
13. Against Me! – “Holy Shit”
14. NOFX – “Fermented and Flailing
15. Smoke Or Fire – “Integrity”
16. Strung Out – “The Fever and the Sound
17. Lawrence Arms – “Demons”
18. American Steel – “Tear the Place Apart”
19. Good Riddance – “Lame Duck Arsenal”
20. No Use For A Name – “Dream Police”
21. The Real McKenzies – “Scots Wha’ Ha’e (Live)”
22. Dillinger Four – “A Jingle for the Product”

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Album Reviews, Music

Review: Strung Out – Agents of the Underground

Bands and artists can be defined by many things, yet at times longevity in the age of brevity can oft be overlooked. Longstanding Simi Valley melodicore outfit Strung Out will never have their fortitude and ‘stick-to-itness’ questioned- 7 albums in and now some 20 years into their existence, they rarely shift away from their melody-driven, sometimes metal, mostly punk vein of expression. Yet with so many artists embroiled in constant questioning of their own artistic credibility and self-worth, it is an amazing feat to see a band so strong in their conviction. They will probably never exceed their current level of global recognition or cross over any more than they have, but there is something truly commendable about their own self-realization.

Agents of the Underground is their finest work in a very, very long time- combining the urgency and razor sharp aggression of Exile in Oblivion with the grace of Blackhawks Over Los Angeles while still evoking the kind of introspection found on Continue reading

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