Review Summary: NUFAN's latest offering is a solid improvement from the sleep-inducing Keep Them Confused, offering up the most diverse NUFAN record yet and the strongest effort in years, despite some weak moments here and there.
Hype and first impressions can often combine into one hell of a bitch. Back in 2005, when No Use For A Name dropped their ninth full-length Keep Them Confused
, frontman/guitarist/lyricist Tony Sly stated that the record was, you know, by far the heaviest, hardest record we've done yet
. Yeah. And then you listened to it and found out that it was more or less the complete opposite, mainly due to Ryan Greene's tepid, glossy overproduction and a total lack of energy, which is and has been a large part of NUFAN's effectiveness. It was the sound of a band running out of steam, a'la Bad Religion's No Substance
. So when I heard that No Use decided to go with Jason Livermore/The Blasting Room (A Wilhelm Scream's Career Suicide
, Propagandhi's Potemkin City Limits
, and NOFX's Wolves In Wolves' Clothing
to name a few) to handle production duties this time around, I was pretty excited. Then NUFAN dropped the first song on the album a few weeks before release, "The Biggest Lie", a song that harkens back to their glory days as an aggressive, speedy punk powerhouse, and I got REALLY amped. Finally, a return to the roots.
Well again, hype and first impressions are often misleading. While as a whole The Feel Good Record Of The Year
is a much stronger record overall than KTC
in terms of immediacy and songwriting, the album seems at first listen to more or less continue the approach found on the aforementioned record of midtempo, Alkaline Trio-influenced pop-punk songs that are more introspective than in-your-face. There's nothing wrong with that, but once in a while you want a song to punch you in the face like "The Answer Is Still No" did - not baby slap it like "Life Size Mirror" - and those aggressive moments are harder to come by on here. Then again, if you want Leche Con Carne
or Making Friends
, you can always go listen to those records.
succeeds, over almost all of NUFAN's previous efforts, is melding all of their bag of tricks, along with some new ones, into one cohesive, unifying sound. It's no secret that NUFAN has been tagged over the years as a "sensitive" Bad Religion, and with the last few records the band has taken strides away from the standard SoCal template and more into an original, albeit mellowed-out, sound. The biggest surprise on here are the large number of folksy, acoustic tracks like "Sleeping Between Trucks" and "Kill The Rich", which are pretty jarring to listen to at first. There's also an honest-to-God piano/strings ballad, "Ontario", which is actually pretty beautifully done. The synth-driven hook/intro of "Yours To Destroy" is also an unexpected touch, albeit in a really good way. Basically, NUFAN is throwing everything at you on this record, only far more cohesively than on previous outings. But without the band's amazing melodies, none of this would even be interesting. Thankfully, this record has arguably the best melodies No Use have created as of yet, with Sly's slick vocals carrying the majority of the album. The man has improved drastically since his earlier days on vox and it shows, especially on songs like "I Want To Be Wrong", which features an insanely catchy, uplifting chorus that contrasts the minor-key feel of the song, as well as the last moments of "The Dregs Of Sobriety" and the vocal harmonies of "The Feel Good Song Of The Year". He also writes some very good lyrics, especially for a pop-punk band, touching on any and all subjects with a relatable, earnest delivery without getting too whiny or preachy. Overall the band is musically as tight as ever.
The album, however, isn't close to perfect. The fact is, No Use has done all of this before, and arguably better, at various times in their career. It never gets to the point where you're like "Ummmm they totally ripped off their own riff there", but the band has been around since 1987 and most of the music has been touched on at some point. The album is also pretty schizophrenic, jumping from hard, fast songs to weird folk tracks to midtempo pop songs to ballads at the drop of a hat, which is both good and bad in that it's a varied listen, but some of the songs ("Domino", "Sleeping Between Trucks", "The Trumpet Player") simply aren't as good as the others ("Biggest Lie", "I Wanna Be Wrong", "Night Of The Living Living", "Pacific Standard Time"). The folk/ballad tracks stand out a lot from the others in how, well, un-NUFAN they are and at times seem like they were thrown in without rhyme and reason just to shock the old-schoolers. "The Biggest Lie" is also a weird track to start the album with as it doesn't really represent the record at all, despite its awesomeness.
The Feel Good Record Of The Year
is unquestionably strong, and probably the best NUFAN outing since 1999's More Betterness!
, ironic since this album is quite similar in its versatility. The production is top-notch and by far the best the band has had yet, and there's an immediate nature to the record that has been lacking on most of their last few efforts. Although there's some lackluster tracks here and there, even the weakest ones are worth a listen. The fact is that even at their worst, No Use For A Name crap on 90% of their imitators and peers without much of a problem, and Tony Sly's indelible songwriting will bring in even the most stalwart music snobs. Overall, despite some weird/weak moments, NUFAN's latest offering is a solid improvement from the sleep-inducing Keep Them Confused
, offering up the most diverse NUFAN record yet and arguably the strongest effort the band has made in years.