Tag «No Use For A Name»

Album Review: Chris Fox – “Portly Formed” EP

The cover of Chris Fox’s 6-song EP shows a penciled sketch of a guy – presumably Fox – from the neck down without a shirt on. The guy is overweight, the EP is titled Portly Formed, and the songs are all covers of Fat Wreck Chords songs. Portly…Fat…get it?

I must confess that I listen to Fat bands more than bands on other labels (for no good reason other than that’s what I’m most familiar with) and so when this EP was “recommended” to me, it took all of two seconds to decide to download it.

Good Riddance’s “Stand”, known to punk fans from Physical Fatness Fat Music Volume 3, leads off the album. This was a compilation-only song during a time when many of us listened to these compilations like it was the radio, because the real radio sucked, and music wasn’t abundantly free on the Internet like it is today. Nostalgia abounds listening to this song. Fox’s voice doesn’t have the power of Russ Rankin’s, and it doesn’t take long to realize we’re not listening to a high-budget production, but that doesn’t change the fact that “Stand” is a great song.

The Swingin’ Utters are represented here with their upbeat feel-good tune “Glad”. This is the moment of the EP when one realizes that some of these stripped down “acoustic” versions of punk songs aren’t really all that different from their original versions (after all, The Utters do use acoustic guitar more than a lot of punk bands, though not in the original version of this song). There are no drums here, and Fox’s vocals have less of an edge than Peebucks, but the tempo and the feel are nearly identical.

Fox makes use of a trumpet and trombone in “10 West”, a song first released back in 2003 by the Mad Caddies who also sport a horn section of only trumpet and trombone. Here “10 West” is recorded sans drums, of course, (although, for the record, if we define “acoustic” as unplugged and unaltered, then the drums are generally the only actual acoustic instrument in a punk band) and the guitar part isn’t strictly a ska feel like the Caddies’ version. But again, like the Utters song, this arrangement isn’t terribly different from the original recording.

Somewhat later Fat releases are represented with tracks 4 and 5, first with Dead To Me’s great tune “California Sun”, followed by the Feel Good Moment of the EP with “Pacific Standard Time” from No Use For a Name’s 2008 and final studio album. Like most of the EP, Fox doesn’t alter the mood of any given song. He begins the latter mellow, the most mellow moment of the EP, before opening it up big; fans of NUFAN’s version will feel the entire band even without it there.

The original Fat band closes out Portly Formed. From Lagwagon’s 1997 friends-themed album Fox cheats and merges two songs into one – “Smile”, which most people think is really called “I Hate My Friends”, and “To All My Friends”, featuring the final guitar solo almost identical to Double Plaidinum’s (what a shame Fox couldn’t have snuck some of “Making Friends” into this medley, as well).

Portly Formed will not go down in history as one of the great treasures of acoustic punk rock, but it is a lot of fun, especially if you’re an unabashed Fat-o-phile like me.

3.5/5 Stars

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Album Review: No Use For A Name “All The Best Songs” (reissue)

Fat Wreck Chords first released No Use For A Name’s All The Best Songs back in 2007. One more full-length album followed before the tragic passing of front man Tony Sly in 2012, and the official disbandment of No Use For A Name. In numerous “Fat Wrecked for 25 Years” interviews, label co-owner Fat Mike repeatedly referred to Tony Sly as the best songwriter in the Fat Wreck Chords family. With the re-release of All The Best Songs, now to include songs from the final album, Fat Wreck Chords continues to show their devotion to one of their most important and beloved bands in the history of the label.

I wasn’t a fan of this release in 2007 because I was sure there was more music to come. And I was right, even if only by an album. Now that the band has officially come to an end, depressing as that may be, a retrospective album of the band’s entire catalogue is appropriate. All The Best Songs is a worthy representation, if not entirely comprehensive; despite being billed as the “definitive collection” of the band’s 27-year career, missing are songs from NUFAN’s first two albums, Incognito and Don’t Miss the Train, though given the collection’s title, perhaps that is by design.

The great thing about “Best Of…” albums by bands that had little, if any, mainstream success is that it is the band and the fans that, over time, determine which songs are the best, rather than MCA, Sony, or another major record label giant pre-determining ahead of time which songs will be played on the radio. For example, “21 Guns” reached no. 22 on the charts, though it wouldn’t make my personal Green Day playlist.

No Use For A Name did have genuine radio hits – “Soulmate” (1995) received air time on MTV, and “Coming to Close” (1999) was better than most modern rock singles of the year. The hits are all here, but they’re not going to fill out a 28-song greatest hits album, so the remaining twenty-some-odd tracks are filled with songs the band and their fans have organically determined over the years to be the best.

If you are new to No Use For A Name, and don’t have the means to purchase their entire catalogue, then this is the perfect place to start. If, however, you are like me and already own everything NUFAN has put out, then buying All The Best Songs may seem unnecessary. I can make my own mix, and there are roughly a half-dozen songs I would have left off of this disc in favor of others (i.e. “Friends of the Enemy” is inexplicably not included). Furthermore, the two exclusive songs from the 2007 version – “History Defeats” and “Stunt Double” – have been taken off for the reissue. Still, I offer three reasons why this album is worth buying:

  1. If you’re stuck in the 20th century, like I am, and you have your No Use For A Name albums neatly organized and displayed on a rack in full view, how can you live with yourself knowing that the collection is incomplete?
  2. Also for the hard copy fans: the liner notes are fantastic, and somewhat different from the original release. There is a sentence or two on every song, and write-ups by long-time band members, former members, and even drummer Rory’s mom!
  3. The songs have all been remastered. Remastering differs from remixing in that remastering only improves the sound quality without actually changing the song. For example, if I was making my own No Use For A Name playlist, songs off of 2008’s The Feel Good Album of the Year are much louder next to songs off of 1995’s Leche Con Carne. That is annoying, but, among other things, remastering solves that problem.

 

I loved No Use For A Name and I still consider them one of my all-time favorite bands. I’m clinging to the hope that there is previously unreleased material lying around that can be compiled for a future B-sides and Rarities album. I don’t want this to be the end. If it is, though, All The Best Song is a fitting send-off and tribute of the legacy left by No Use For A Name.

4 /5 

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