Tony Sly and No Use for a Name’s legacies are firmly cemented by this collection.
No Use for a Name was a punk rock mainstay. They were one of the bands that put NoFX mastermind Fat Mike’s Fat Wreck Chords on the map. They sang songs of anger, angst, pain, remorse—and even joy. Led by singer/songwriter Tony Sly, No Use is a band that will forever be lodged right in the center of their fans’ chests. Since Sly’s passing in the summer of 2012, tributes have been made, songs have been sung and shows have been held to honor him and his band’s work. And now, to keep his legacy alive, Fat Wreck Chords has reissued the 2007 retrospective All the Best Songs to include tracks from No Use’s incredible, critically acclaimed final album The Feel Good Record of the Year in order to release the definitive collection of a band’s greatest work spanning their all-too-short career.
What makes All the Best Songs so special isn’t the inclusion of the literal best songs from No Use’s catalogue (which is certainly true), but Fat Wreck Chord’s mission to make the collection a great album. It’s precisely what you would expect from a record label who owes a portion of their success to such an influential band. Track placement, continuity and tonal attitude show a true level of love and respect for this band and their fans. While there is no previously unreleased material on All the Best Songs, Fat Wreck Chords has created a new way to listen to these tunes. Handpicked from their placement on their respective albums, all 28 tracks find a new home here, and it’s as if we’ve been given something brand new. And for people who miss Tony Sly kicking around in the world, it’s even more special.
Leading off with “International You Day,” a blisteringly fast punk rock love anthem from 2002’s Hard Rock Bottom, is an inspired choice. It takes on new meaning here, growing from its original intent to become a love letter from Sly to his fans, and a bittersweet fan-tribute to a man who left them too soon. This song is not only No Use’s finest, it could be considered the pinnacle of their sound.
“Justified Black Eye,” an admonishment of domestic violence, is next. Hints of thrash and hardcore with Sly’s talent for melody make for an excellent follow-up to begin the dig into the past. From there the album ping-pongs between ¡Leche Con Carne!, Making Friends and More Betterness!, No Use’s most formative albums. These records are stuffed with excellent songs, but only the best of the best have made the cut. From the pop punk stylings of “Dumb Reminders” to the melancholy lament of a lack of identity in “Life Size Mirror” and the resurgent “Biggest Lie” from their final album into this old school mix ties the first 11 tracks together because of its career-spanning sound. The latter song features the speed and fury from No Use’s early days and adds the nuanced melodies from 2005’s Keep Them Confused.
The second third of the collection includes “Permanent Rust,” a dark, gritty punk tune reaching back to No Use for a Name’s early days. This cut from The Daily Grind may feature the band at their most pissed off, but it certainly has its place by adding a bit of perspective to the mix. Hearing a band’s beginnings can often be a frustrating venture because of the kaleidoscopic shifts in quality, but “Permanent Rust” was one of their best then and deserves its place amongst the greats.
You’ll also find the fan-favorites “Chasing Rainbows” and “Not Your Savior” from More Betterness! in the mix here, which may very well have been many millennials’ first experience with the band. Considering these songs are from an album in which No Use’s style shifted most drastically—while still maintaining the speed they’ve always done so well—these pieces juxtaposed with the band’s earliest work is a hell of a lot of fun to listen to because of the notable sonic evolution.
The tail-end of All the Best Songs is the most intricate mixture of the bunch. Replete with songs from every post-1992 No Use for a Name album, it’s possible some may find this to be a bit of a mish-mash. However, it’s only fitting that the track list features cuts from all of the band’s work as a send-off of sorts—a montage of their history, even. Even the acoustic “Let it Slide” has a place here because of the depth and variation of Tony Sly’s abilities as a songwriter. And finishing off the collection with “Exit,” the ender from Making Friends, is as bittersweet as opening with “International You Day” – a song of pain and loss with the inevitability of new beginnings now equipped with the tools with which to endure more pain and loss. Considering this may be the last No Use for a Name release, it’s not just a fitting end, it’s a necessary one for closure’s sake.
Tony Sly and No Use for a Name’s legacies are firmly cemented by this collection. It’s an easy way to look back at a career rife with punk rock excellence. It’s also a reason to go back and listen to the band’s albums in full. Despite the surety of the title, All the Best Songs is a bit of a misnomer. Yes, these are the best songs No Use produced, but there are also many, many more. Perhaps the title All the Best Songs We Could Fit in One Collection Without It Becoming Unruly would better serve this retrospective. But that would be ridiculous. The fact of the matter is, not only is this an excellent introduction to an amazing band for the uninitiated, it’s the perfect way for fans to remind themselves just how good No Use for a Name was and just how special a songwriter and person Tony Sly was. This may be the last time we get a new No Use release, but it’s certainly not the last time we’ll listen.