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No Use For A Name (or NUFAN for short) are a long-serving California punk band formed in the 1980s who released their first studio album, 'Icognito' in 1990. Now most of the people who have read one of my reviews before will know by now that sometimes I will review a band who ninenty-eight per cen tof you have never heard of in your life. I expect No Use For A Name to be one of these bands, as despite their long career and extensive music catalogue they have never really ventured outside America with any real intent. They play shows and promote music, but they do not recieve much exposure in the UK at all.
I first heard of this group in my teens at school when I was much more loyal to this kind of music. Typically a sort of new age 90s deviation from punk which tended to incorporate ska or poppy elements to it. 'No Use For A Name' do have punk roots as did alot of the music I discovered at that time but they are individual in the fact that they have a very pop-friendly and melodic style of music that although they use guitars, bass and drums like most other rock bands, they at times have very delicate vocals and emotional lyrics or tepid and harmonious tunes to the songs which make some tracks a lot more accessible to a wide audience.
'The Feel Good Record Of The Year' is not what I expect this album to be, the band have a tendecy to sing of heartbreak and tragedy so it would have come as a surprise if this album is cheerful from start to finish. This is the band's ninth studio album but they have several other releases as EPs, live albums, etc. It is fourteen tracks long and is approximately 37 minutes long. It is probably worth noting that I have heard this album before but have neever listened to it all in one go. Some tracks I am familiar with but others I have not yet had time to deconstruct yet. Here goes anyway, let's see what the next 37 and a half minutes bring...
=== THe FeeL GooD ReCoRD oF THe YeaR ===
Track 1 [Biggest Lie]
A classical 1940's radio show is interrupted by a News Bulletin but is interuppted a few sharp drum beats and a fairly hardocre guitar riff comes in for a pacey opening track. The drums beat quickly but not too furiously as the guitar keeps a fairly constant rhythm. As with lots of NUFAN tracks, the vocals add a lot to the song with the long melody of some of the notes and the poppy sing-a-long choruses mixed with a punky soundtrack. A decent track to open, a little generic but short enough to be forgiven.
Track 2 [I Want To Be Wrong]
A trembling bassline and quite a hardcore punk rhythm to the track once again. The guitar echoes nicely against the bass when they are allowed to contrast. The vocals are again quite characteristic of the group's heavy songs. The lyrics are sung with energy but harmony and it is quite rare in a punk bank and a somewhat difficult sound to convey with mere text. Another indifferent track, a little more intensity in the instruments' contributions but no more special than the first track.
Track 3 [Yours To Destroy]
A much more universal track from the kickoff. A slow drum beat, similar to that of an R&B song opens the track with a pulsing but restrained drumming and a slow and controlled backup from the guitars. The lyrics are dramatic as per usual and at the chorus the song takes on quite a soft American rock vibe and retreats back to its unintrusive ways when the verses come along. A good track with a few decent changes in pace and actually one of the songs I have yet to really listen to properly from this album. The best one so far though.
Track 4 [Under The Garden]
The cymbals vigourously tap along as the guitar pedal put the hardcore filter back on. Anothe rquite punky song. Now when I say punk, I don't want you to get the wrong idea. NUFAN are pop-punk. They are much tidier and refined, most punk is clumsy, unkempt, raucous and insistent, but this band are very polished and with a sometimes hardcore musical accompaniement, the vocals tones are so dulcet and clear that the group must be seperated in genre from many of their other 'punk' conterparts. As a result, as NUFAN go, this track is fairly heavy but compared to the extremes of punk, this is timid.
Track 5 [Sleeping Between Trucks]
Easily my favourite so far, this track is an acoustic symphony, pleasantly guitaring its way along to the chorus when it picks up a little bit, i mean, A LITTLE. The lyrics are pretty good and easy to pick up, the vocals are nicer and relaxing even and the track offers respite from the elctric guitars for those that need it.
Track 6 [Domino]
The tranquility shatters with a deep drum roll and a few scratching guitar chords over again. A reasonable chorus and some of the better lyrics so far in points of this track. The vocals come across well and fit the jumpy tempo of the song well. the song doesn't quite click into place perfectly but ti has some good elements to it.
Every time we say hello, it's like meeting a total stranger
And when we're on our own you know there's not much left to say
Just wait for everyone to nod their head then you nod yours
What difference will that make?
Track 7 [The Feel Good Song Of The Year]
Another pacey drum beat and simple looped guitar chords but with a little more attitude in this one. Some well delivered vocals and quite a passionate and slightly irked tendency to the tracks musical feeling. If you listen to the lrics it soon becomes clear that the 'Feel Good' concept of the album and this track in particular is meant to be tinged with irony.
Track 8 [The Trumpet Player]
A trumpet player is mentioned in the last couple of lines of the previous track and appears in the form of this track. Not so hardcore as an instrumental, a bouncy and partially restrained track with a nice vibrant, bouncing drum player. The whole scheme increases in energy and power for the chorus which is much more lively whilst it does admittedly allow a little rowdiness in the guitaring to project from time to time in the choruses. A decent song with a catchy chorus and slightly mor eindividual than some of the other tracks.
Track 9 [Night Of The Living Living]
A clear play on the 'night of the living dead' scenario, this track has a pensive opening with keyboard tones and a news commentary which is blasted apart by thrashing guitars and pounding drums after a misleadingly downkey intro. The vocals are very typical and characteristic of the band and shades of previous albums can be seen in different sections of the songs. Quite a typical NUFAN song with confused musical elements and deceptive harmony to the lyrics. I think the point of replacing the word 'dead' with 'living' in the track title is apparent by the line 'I am more scared of the living than the dead.' Remember, dead men tell no tales and hurt no one any more, living people are a different matter...
Track 10 [Ontario]
The track utilises solemn and slow piano chords and calming string instruments, almost demi-orchestral in parts. The vocals are soft and as always, very clean and polished, especially for a punk/rock band. The track doesn't spring a change of pace or blasting solo on you, it remains poignant, thoughtful and controlled to the last and comes across as quite a likeable ballad, if a little dull or a tad depressing from some perspectives.
Track 11 [Pacific Standard Time]
Incessant drums are the order of this track and the gruff guitaring adds a frantic edge to a song which also has some of the staple poppy delivery in the lyrics. Some will find the contrast of poppy rock lyrics with hardcore punk musical elements a bit too much but others will find it a way into a genre they previously had little in common with. This track is probably not what I would choose to encourage someone to give this band a chance, it lacks the catchiness and bounce that many of their track's manage to project.
Track 12 [The Dregs Of Sobriety]
A soft bassline opens the tracks and is soon joined by slightly bolder drums and guitaring but the vocals are back to their catchy strengths to an extent. The backbeat is fairly repetetive and does tend to be fairly often with NUFAN, but allows for a constant tempo to the song and some consistency in the beat of the track. Another generic track this song may appear to be, but there are some highlights, mainly from the vocal delivery as the track reaches it's crescendo.
Track 13 [Kill The Rich]
Now we come to the acoustic ballad which this group nearly always have on or two of on each album. Nothing particularly remarkable here but a nice direct angle to deal with the title. The track is plainly obviously about the way rich people act around and towards the poorer classes. Some ineresting lyrics but hardly revolutionary. A pleasant track and whilst it isn't exactly revolutionary, there are some endearing characteristics and intersting sentiments in the song.
But in the beginning there were words with half a cause
Now everyone is singing it and waiting for the applause
They don't think about you when the payments keep on coming
But only to use you for a way...
...To make themselves appear like an angel in the room
They soothe their guilty conscience and tell it what to do
Track 14 [Take it Home]
Normally the band end on the mellow note, but not this album. The amps are plugged back in and the drums are beating out the 1-2-3-4 tempo again. Another hardcore poppy number but I think it probably would have been wiser to stick to form and end on the previous. This track is not particularly bad, but after the last acoustic number it seems pointless to have this as the solitary track afterwards. A mediocre track with a few decent vocal highlights as usual but a fairly NUFAN 'by numbers' track.
=== Summary ===
'The Feel Good Record Of The Year,' being the band's ninth album is clearly a difficult task for them to keep fresh and at times it really shows. I haven't given any track a particularly abysmal rating, they all attained fairly respectable scores in fact, but that seems to be this album's problem. Most of the tracks are mediocre and not substantial enough in their content or rhythm that they compare favourably to the similar, but older catalogue of music the band possesses. There are many of the element's that the band were founded on musically, in this record, but they do not seem to translate and I found myself a little disappointed that the group have matured very little over their 20 year music career - apart from maybe favouring an extra ballad on their more recent albums.
I was actually listening to the album as I reviewed it (I always do) but now it has finished, my iTunes (other music applications are available =P) has played through to an earlier album of theirs. The musical makeup is very similar but the song's have much more passion and vibrance and I feel they have been replicated minus some of the original bite in 'Feel Good Record Of The Year.'
Whilst I am aware that so far, I have been fairly critical of the release, in balance, I feel that the album has no terrible tracks, it also has some interesting lyrics although they do tend to be fleeting. Their are some really good tracks, but in most cases, they are the slower tracks, or the ballad's almost. Very few of the hardcore punk rock tracks hit the nail on the head and whilst they may come across better to people not enamoured with the genre, fans of the band or this kind of music may feel a little disappointed by sections of this album. I looked forward to hearing this album after an exensive break from this band but I have found it to be somewhat of an anticlimax.
If I was to recommend tracks from it, the best are 'Sleeping Between Trucks' which is an acoustic number and is the front-runner for me on the album and of the other tracks, the pick are 'Domino' 'Under The Garden' and 'The Trumpet Player.' I struggle to pick the best of these three as they are of a similar nature but varying styles but they are the stronger of the remaining album tracks. I think at a push I would have to list 'The Trumpet Player' as the one I personally prefer but I don't expect everyone would agree with me, they never do!!
My advice to anyone familiar with 'No Use For A Name' would be to listen to this but to keep their expectations in check. They will like some of the album I'm sure but it doesn't come close to the band's best releases. To any newcomer I would maybe suggest a couple of the tracks from the four I just listed, but really to sell the band to a listener, it would probably be more advisable to check out some of NUFAN's extensive back catalogue as this album can come across as somewhat of a non-event at times. Not the band's worst album but out of the nine they have, this would struggle to get into the top half of the list.
also posted on www.ciao.co.uk
As quite a big No Use For A Name fan, I admit that I was a little bit disappointed with this album. It saddens me to see NUFAN clearly descend further and further into the dark realms of pop-punk, when I know for sure that they used to come out with some pretty amazing hardcore punk stuff!
Either way, I've picked out some songs I felt were worth mentioning, and so I'll just say a quick short sentence or two about them.
Couldn't get the album off to a better start. Brilliant guitar riffs, and a good vocal melody.
I Want To Be Wrong
Catchy chorus in this song, with some surprisingly deep lyrics.
Sleeping Between Trucks
Slow acoustic song, still upbeat and positive, but very very very not punk :(
The Trumpet Player
The verses aren't great, and could get a bit boring, but in my opinion the chorus makes up for it.
The Dregs Of Society
One of the better songs of the album. Great melodies and guitar work.
I just get the feeling that NUFAN don't quite know what they're doing with themselves anymore, as there are some songs on this album that echo back the good punk of their old days, but then there are also some very very pop-punk-ish/acoustic/generally-NON-punk stuff!
Essentially, this album is not NUFAN-ish enough for me. In fact, I think that I'm beginning to lose hope that they might ever go back to their amazing sound that they used to have. But if you're into pop-punk, then this album is for you!
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Biggest Lie
2 I Want to Be Wrong
3 Yours to Destroy
4 Under the Garden
5 Sleeping Between Trucks
7 Feel Good Song of the Year
8 Trumpet Player
9 Night of the Living Living
11 Pacific Standard Time
12 Dregs of Sobriety
13 Kill the Rich
14 Take It Home