Review Summary: This is NUFAN in their prime, after their departure from a reckless approach to punk but before their inclusion of focused and more melodic sounds.
Jake Jackson is the clean cut guitar talent in the legendary Foo Fighters and the punk cover band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. His real name is Chris Shiflett, which has caused some confusion amongst listeners attempting to connect the dots in terms of No Use for a Name’s history. Shiflett used to play with No Use for a Name (NUFAN) and was on Making Friends
, NUFAN’s fifth full-length album. Shiflett decided to join the Foo Fighters in 1999 soon after finishing NUFAN’s More Betterness
!, only after contributing to two albums in NUFAN’s catalog. Though his time with NUFAN was short, he did much to evolve their sound and helped create their best material. They emerged from an early career filled with grainy guitars, rushed songs, and poor transitions, and could have easily been mistaken for a confused metal band or D.R.I. When Shiflett arrived, they matured quickly, and it’s noticeable on Making Friends
The guitars on Making Friends
are incredible because they’re dynamic, whether they replace silence with a short interlude as heard on “Secret,” or function by setting an entire tone for a song like “Growing Down” or “Sidewalk.” Though what truly makes them special is that they’re also the most interesting part of any NUFAN song. The drums are nauseatingly repetitive though drummer Rory Koff lacks no talent whatsoever. His beats are either slow or fast, they sound great, but they follow a similar pattern and do not cure a thirst for variety. I didn’t know NUFAN had a bassist until I read the album jacket. Bassist Matt Riddle’s role in the band is hardly noticeable other than his occasional vocal chime-in or when he plays behind a much higher pitch. Vocalist Tony Sly is a contender for “The Best Thing About No Use for a Name” and he’s a great one at that. He plays guitar, putting him at a disadvantage for this award. He’s one hell of a singer and is the distinguishable element of NUFAN, but his role on the album is secondary to what really helped this album succeed.
works because it has many elements of pop-punk that are tried and true, but more so because their older self bleeds through many of their songs and adds an edge to what would otherwise be mediocre. It’s not a remarkably consistent album though many of the song themes flow into the next. The lack of consistency can be attributed to an exploration of style and overall rhythm, which is guitar driven, and results in an experimental side that takes from consistency what it gives to noticeable accessibility and catchiness.
Emotional pop-punk songs are a dime a dozen, but the memorable ones are those you keep going back to because they provide relevant messages to help you move forward in your life. Making Friends
is full of memorable songs, like “The Answer is Still No,” “Invincible,” and “On the Outside.” Their lyrics contain resent and disappointment, but they do more than complain by addressing their problems in a larger scope which does even more for the listener. “The Answer is Still No” asks “Does anybody care?” at its conclusion, and repeats the question in a resigned manner. “On the Outside” moves on with Sly wondering but not regretting about what could have been, singing “I'm not gonna track you down and it's / too late to stop / thinking 'bout the time that we have lost / (I'm happy without you).” These songs have certainly connected with me above being very entertaining. The rest of the album does not trail far behind and increases a listener’s resilience to boredom based on pop-punk familiarity.
To date, NUFAN has achieved enough success and credibility to release a solid collection of greatest hits. Thanks to Shiflett, they became more than another pop-punk band, or another NOFX clone, or even a Pennywise. But when he left, they couldn’t elevate their game and make significant progress. That’s fine though, because his contributions put NUFAN over the top in terms of the ability to produce very listenable tunes with noticeable traces of their past self lending them a distinct and respectable sound.