Fat Wreck Chords – Release Date: 10/29/13
Last year, No Use For A Name singer/guitarist Tony Sly passed away unexpectedly at the age of 41. No Use’s longtime label, Fat Wreck Chords, has responded by releasing this 26-track compilation, with proceeds benefitting Sly’s wife and two daughters. The resulting album features some of the biggest names in punk, with bands covering both NUFAN songs and music from Sly’s solo career. By all accounts, Sly was a truly gifted songwriter and this record does a phenomenal job of not only showcasing his talents, but also celebrating his life. Karina Denike, former Dance Hall Crashers singer, opens the album with a haunting, almost a cappella rendition of “Biggest Lie” that emphasizes Sly’s powerful lyrics. Strung Out provides a fast-paced, metallic version of No Use’s biggest hit, “Soulmate,” and it’s simply one of the best entries on the record. Conversely, Rise Against offers a stripped-down, acoustic take of “For Fiona,” which strikes an emotional chord when singer Tim McIlrath concludes the song by echoing Sly’s words of “I’m always here.” Bad Religion, NOFX and Lagwagon all contribute strong and sturdy covers, with the latter sounding particularly spirited. Snuff adds a reggae-tinged song, while Old Man Markley supplies some bluegrass influence, illustrating that Sly’s songwriting transcends genres. Frank Turner and The Gaslight Anthem also present quality interpretations, as do The Bouncing Souls, Teenage Bottlerocket and many additional artists on this compilation. In short, the album very much succeeds in honoring Sly’s memory. He was respected by an array of musicians and will always be remembered for being an especially talented lyricist. If you ever enjoyed any of Sly’s work, there’s no doubt that you’ll enjoy this as well. Lastly, check out Alkaline Trio’s unique and chilling cover of “Straight from the Jacket” below.
Epitaph – Release Date: 9/28/10
Not only did Bad Religion turn 30 this year, they also released their 15th studio album, entitled The Dissent of Man. Easily their best effort since The Process of Belief, this record blends varying genres, bristles with pointed lyrics and radiates a glossy production job. The band wastes little time getting warmed up, as the second track, “Only Rain”, showcases virtually all of their finest attributes. It opens with an intricate guitar lead, flaunts intelligent words, delivers powerhouse drumming and of course incorporates three-part vocal harmonies. The song sounds like classic Bad Religion, but still manages to seem inspired after all these years. Track three, “The Resist Stance”, retains somewhat of a ‘90s alternative vibe and sounds as though it could have plausibly been included on Stranger than Fiction. It’s built around a hypnotic and memorable guitar solo that translates even better in concert. “The Devil in Stitches” is the first single and by far the band’s catchiest song since “Los Angeles is Burning”. Its driving rhythm and sunny chorus are custom-built for commercial rock radio and why it wasn’t a huge smash is plainly unexplainable. “Pride and the Pallor”, “Wrong Way Kids” and “Someone to Believe” are additional melodic entries that are worthy of praise. The residual songs favor more classic rock and folk-like influences, and aren’t as striking as the abovementioned tunes. The Dissent of Man isn’t going to convert many new Bad Religion fans, but it’s significantly better than their last two albums. Those who’ve ever enjoyed the band in the past owe it to themselves to give this a spin.
All photos by Katie Hovland. Click on a photo to enlarge.