Album Review: No Use For A Name “Rarities Vol. I: The Covers”

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A couple of years ago I concluded my review of No Use For A Name’s All The Best Songs (reissue) with the plea for a NUFAN b-sides and rarities compilation to be released sometime in the future. This past summer I got my wish with Rarities Vol. I: The Covers. Note the best part of the title: Vol. I – there will be more!!!

The album kicks off with The Vapors’ “Turning Japanese” which was recorded for the classic Vagrant Records compilation Before You Were Punk (how great were the nineties for punk compilations?). In fact, die-hard No Use fans will recognize many of these songs already. I had thought I was die-hard, and am ashamed for not knowing more of these tracks ahead of time.

Fat Wreck Chords promoted the album in part by releasing “Hybrid Moments” in the weeks leading up to the release date. No Use’s version was met with mild criticism for having slightly different lyrics than the original. This reviewer doesn’t care. Tony’s imitation of The Misfits’ lead singer Glenn Danzig is fantastic, complete with the exaggerated vibrato which was probably intentional, but maybe not.

One of the joys of recording cover songs for a band has to be the opportunity to do things you don’t usually get to do. “I’ve Heard” (Dag Nasty) is a throwback for No Use; even in 1997, when it was recorded, No Use hadn’t been a hardcore band in several years. And how about that cheesy synthesizer sound in Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence”?

While punk bands generally relegate cover songs to compilations or ep releases, No Use For A Name didn’t shy away from including cover songs on their proper albums. Leche Con Carne, Making Friends, More Betterness, and Hard Rock Bottom contained one unoriginal song each. These four tracks were not included on this Rarities compilation, although a different and earlier version of “Fairytale of New York” is unearthed here.

These thirteen tracks were all recorded by Ryan Greene – who produced most of No Use’s best-known material – between 1996 and 2005. “Dream Police” has that over-produced quality found on Keep Them Confused, recorded the same year, but overall the recordings have a pure stripped-down punk rock sound to them, even taking into account the aforementioned synthesizer.

Still, some songs were previously unreleased. For example, No Use was going to release “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” on something until Me First and the Gimme Gimmes put it on their show tunes album, so the No Use version just sat on the shelf until now. Also, “The Munsters’ Theme” and their early version of “Fairytale of New York” were unreleased until now (I think).

One of the true highlights is “Badfish”, recorded for the Sublime tribute album back in 2006. “Badfish” is a great song, NUFAN’s arrangement is excellent, and it features some of Tony’s finest singing. Years after it was released, this track has an eerie aura to it. Bradley Nowell of Sublime had been the poster boy for punk/ska geniuses gone too soon; now Tony Sly stands by his side.

The Feel Good Moment of the Album comes at the end. “Beth” shouldn’t be new to NUFAN fans as it was the secret track on Making Friends, but on Rarities it is that much more effective. As the Kiss cover song comes to an end on this posthumous No Use For A Name release, the band refuses to stop and instead breaks into the main guitar riff of NUFAN’s greatest song “Soulmate” (if this doesn’t give you chills, you’re dead inside) before the ensemble disintegrates, giving way to a final rendition of “Gene and Paul I Hate You Most of All”.

NUFAN fans rejoice – the title implies that there will be at least a second volume. There is also talk of a boxed set, a video documentary, and even a No Use and Friends tour. I want all of this to happen and I want it to happen NOW! But I’ll wait, even if I can’t wait.

4 / 5 Stars

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