Review Summary: Another melodic pop punk album by California veterans No Use for a Name. While it may be very poppy and acessible to the mainstream, its still very catchy and fun to listen to.
Pop punk/punk bands from the 90's are alwaysinteresting to look at. Bands like Strung Out and Propagandhi went from catchy pop punk in the 90's to overly complex, melodic hardcore punk that dwelves in the metal category. Bands like NOFX and Pennywise have essentially sounded the same over their lifespan, rarely trying anything new except maybe albums with different meanings and different production sounds. But rarely do we see fairly heavy pop punk/punk bands that go lighter and have a more accessible sound without joining major record labels. The Offspring were known for being pretty fast and aggressive, and then going into full on pop punk. And with Hard Rock Bottom, it seems No Use for a Name have chosen that path too, except they chose to stay on the independent label Fat Wreck.
More Betterness! marked a departure of NUFAN's aggressive, fast paced pop punk with slower, more melodic pop punk. 2 and a half years later, NUFAN returned to the music scene with Hard rock Bottom in 2002. The early millenium was an awkward time for punk rock. Even though blink-182, MxPx and the Offspring helped revive a pop punk sensation, many were wondering how the band's of the 90's would fair to their tastes anymore. Rancid released a self titled hardcore album in 2000, AFI released another goth punk anthem album, Strung Out made a dark, metal like EP and Propagandhi sounded a completely different band. It seemed like most bands were changing styles into previously, or rarely, unheard of styles of punk.
Hard Rock Bottom seems very tamed and in a way, stable, compared to what was going on in the independent punk community. Almost where More Betterness! leaves off, the album opens with "Feels Like Home", an acoustic like song in which the band proudly shows off Tony Sly's vocals. Right off the bat, one will realize this album wont be anything jaw dropping (unless this is your first pop punk record), but will know it will be enjoyable nonetheless.
Like More Betterness!, there is more of an emphasis on the singing and melody rather than the instruments like past albums. "Let Me Down", "Angela", "Solitaire" and "Friends of the Enemy" showcase the highly evolved vocalizing of Tony Sly. Despite being a great singer, Sly sure sounds a lot younger on here, with his voice being easily comparable to several mainstream pop punk bands that had half the talent.
Still, the album has some good ol' fast paced songs to cater to the old school fans and just punk rock fans in general. "Pre-Medicated Murder", "Undefeated", "Nailed Shut" and "Insecurity Alert" shows the band is still holding on to their heavier style, while blending it with their mid-tempo, more melodic sound from today. There's even an odd cover version of Sinead O' Connor's "This is a Rebel Song." Concert stables like the fantastic "International you Day" are on this album.
"Dumb Reminders" is a good song and was the single for the album. The music video shows the band playing in front of an extremely unimpressed crowd of fans, who end up beating the sh*t of the band after learning they lip-synch. The video, as I take it, is a humorous look on NUFAN fans who were disappointed with More Betterness! being so much melodic influenced than its predescesors, so of course they'll hate Hard Rock Bottom. Its kind of a sarcastic look on fans who talk more crap on the bands they like than the bands they hate, and that they don't realize its up to the band as to what they want sound like.
Why did I even mention the video? Because it helps explain NUFAN's decision to make their style of music, that's why.
Hard Rock Bottom is nothing amazing or spectacular or groundbreaking, but it is catchy and enjoyable. While More Betterness! and Hard Rock Bottom isolated many older fans, its hard to talk crap on this album. Its pretty damn good for a pop punk album, and it is not the group's worst album by far.