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Various Artists - The Songs of Tony Sly: A Tribute (Cover Artwork)

Various Artists

Various Artists: The Songs of Tony Sly: A TributeThe Songs of Tony Sly: A Tribute (2013)
Fat Wreck Chords

Reviewer Rating: 4
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Contributed by: BryneBryne
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The circumstances surrounding The Songs of Tony Sly: A Tribute are nothing if not wholly unique. While its purpose is completely noble – proceeds from the compilation will benefit Sly's wife and two young daughters, Kiera and Fiona – tribute albums have rightfully earned a reputation as .
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The circumstances surrounding The Songs of Tony Sly: A Tribute are nothing if not wholly unique. While its purpose is completely noble – proceeds from the compilation will benefit Sly's wife and two young daughters, Kiera and Fiona – tribute albums have rightfully earned a reputation as well-intentioned, but ultimately uninspired collections of half-assed covers, often curated by small labels desperate for name recognition. This decidedly isn't that, but the separation, at least from a critical standpoint, can be difficult.

Sly's shocking, sudden death in August 2012 at 41 left a void in the punk scene that will never be filled again, least of all by a tribute album. His music inspired so many people from so many different sections of punk, the expectations for this record are almost impossibly high, to the point where it'd be unfair to judge its content in the context of a "traditional" tribute album. Still, as a tribute, The Songs of Tony Sly: A Tribute is a pretty fitting, and often arresting eulogy on behalf of a still-mourning scene.

Sly's wide-ranging influence is immediately apparent as Karina Deniké's sparsely haunting "A Biggest Lie" opens the compilation. By using little more than her voice, the former Dance Hall Crashers co-vocalist puts Sly's lyrics at the absolute forefront of her interpretation, creating a hell of a table-setter in the process. It segues nicely into Mad Caddies' airy rocksteady version of "AM," too. Later on, Tim McIlrath of Rise Against and Jon Snodgrass team up for an acoustic take on "For Fiona," McIlrath's stark vocals complementing the more soulful, weathered voice of Snodgrass quite nicely. Frank Turner's interpretation of "Keira" is smartly gaunt, as well; it sounds as if it was recorded roadside, with the faintness of cars whirring by accompanying Turner's gentle voice and guitar. Brian Fallon of the Gaslight Anthem injects some harmonica into "Capo 4th Fret," adding even more solemnity than his somber vocal take can provide. Alkaline Trio offer a Damnesia-style spin on "Straight From The Jacket," with Matt Skiba's commanding vocals and a powerful guitar solo at the forefront.

Elsewhere, Snuff's Latin-fueled take on "On The Outside" is an awesome curveball, with infectious rhythms, busy percussion and abrasive horns. The goosebump-inducing, multi-part harmonies of Old Man Markley's "Feel Good Song of the Year" are also a highlight. Dramatic strings accompany Swingin' Utters' rootsy version of "Not Your Savior" with positive results.

Even certain bands who influenced Sly and No Use For A Name pay tribute; Bad Religion's version of "Let it Slide" is relatively straightforward, but hearing Greg Graffin respectfully croon Sly's lyrics is a lot of fun. NOFX basically make "The Shortest Pier" their own while augmenting the anthemic nature of the original's chorus.

Sly's indelible impression on the enduring EpiFat sound is apparent in droves, too. Strung Out, whose rise on Fat Wreck Chords was concurrent with that of No Use For A Name, do their best impression on "Soulmate" while also injecting their own slightly heavier, harmonic-heavy sound into its backbone. Lagwagon's cover of "Discomfort Inn" accomplishes much the same, with Joey Cape – one of Sly's best friends and biggest boosters – sounding more invested than he has in years in this setting.

The inclusion of Yellowcard and Simple Plan on The Songs of Tony Sly: A Tribute caused some initial consternation among some holier-than-thou punk fans (imagine that). The truth is, No Use For A Name's music, especially their later, poppier material, was a direct influence on those bands. Anyone who doesn't hear it is either deaf or in denial. Furthermore, the inclusion of those two bands might inspire new fans to pick up the compilation, which not only benefits Sly's family but potentially turns them on to his music. How is that a bad thing? To their credit, Yellowcard play it straight with "Already Won," injecting their own crafted sense of energy into what was originally a fairly somber acoustic number. Conversely, Simple Plan's take on "Justified Black Eye" is poppier and sparser than the original, which places emphasis on the song's eternally important lyrical message.

The Songs of Tony Sly: A Tribute is a triumph, not to mention a surprisingly comprehensive collection and worthy interpretation of Sly's legacy. It's sometimes fun, often somber, but never not respectful or entertaining.

Joey Cape reappears with Scorpios (who also featured Sly prior to his death) on closer "International You Day," which lyrically seems sadly prescient now:

Where did I go wrong?
I should have told you from the start
that I'm closer than you think
when we're apart
nothing that I've tried
is as simple as this line


But without you
my life is incomplete
my days are absolutely gray
and so I'll try
let your heart know for sure
that I have so much more to tell you
every single day

 

 
People who liked this also liked:
Bad Religion - True NorthPropagandhi - Failed StatesAgainst Me! - Transgender Dysphoria BluesThe Flatliners - CavalcadeThe Flatliners - Dead LanguageMasked Intruder - Masked IntruderThe Menzingers - On the Impossible PastA Wilhelm Scream - PartycrasherOff With Their Heads - HomeThe Lawrence Arms - Metropole

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
boonlar (November 13, 2013)

A heartfelt tribute. My favourite track is Jon Snodgrass & the Dead Peasants' On the Outside.

televisioneyes (November 11, 2013)

Love the photo they chose of him.

mclz (November 8, 2013)

Love the comp. No suprise the only track I can't really stand is the Brian Fallon cover.

thegrayrace (November 2, 2013)

Brilliant album. While I have been a fan of NUFAN since the mid-90s, I had been really getting into Tony's solo stuff prior to his death, so I have no complaints that many bands covered those tunes. On the contrary, they are some of my favorite tracks on the album. I love that some bands gave his acoustic stuff a punk twist, while others played NUFAN songs acoustically. Nice touch. I've listened to the album through three times so far, and there aren't really any songs I'd skip, even including the download bonus tracks. It feels like every band/artist put thought into their song choice and did their best with it. Some bands I don't particularly care for - like Yellowcard - or hadn't ever heard of - like Old Man Markley - contributed some of the best tracks on the album.

I might be crazy, but I listen to this album and feel I'm hearing Tony's voice on every track. In that regard, they must have done something right.

RIP

paulrulzdood (November 1, 2013)

if there's one thing I don't like about the comp, it's the Rise Against cover. i'd much rather have heard a full-band Rise Against cover of For Fiona, not the sad-bastard acoustic cover. I can even hear the full-band version in my head and it's really good.

paulrulzdood (November 1, 2013)

the Yellowcard song is freaking amazing IMO. The drumwork in it is better than any other band on the comp and is easily one of the best covers on it.

I also really enjoy the Strung Out, NOFX, Mad Caddies and TBR contributions.

It feels good to listen to this, it doesn't really give closure but at least it gives something tangible to reflect with, as I was a huge NUFAN fan, and clearly so were many of the bands I listen to. It's also nice to know in some way this is benefiting Tony's family.

Paul

filbunke (November 1, 2013)

Great tribute! Some really good versions on this one.

Strung Out really went all out. Haven't listened to them for a few years now but wow, what a talented band. I think this is how Strung Out should always sound.

I like many of the contributions on here but my favorites so far: Lagwagon, Strung Out, Flatliners, Alkaline Trio and Teenage Bottlerocket.

Also, to hear "International You Day" sung by Joey Cape almost made me tear up a little..

KungPowza (October 31, 2013)

After listening to this a few times through, the Lagwagon cover of Discomfort Inn is probably my favorite track. listening to Joey's vocals, you can tell how important it was to him that the song turned out really good.

griffigr (October 30, 2013)

This is one comp that I'll be spinning for quite some time. Really appreciated the fact that many of the bands put their own spin on their respective renditions. I was also delighted to discover that Joey and Jon make multiple appearances on this release. One minor annoyance includes the fact that some of these tracks were literally crapped out and lacked production value (notably the offerings from Brian Fallon and Frank Turner, but even the Bad Religion track seemed to lack some polish), but all in all, this record is simply fucking fantastic.

kako_nd (October 30, 2013)

...and not to be unfair on other amazing moments, Flatliners's "Fireball" version is just mind-blowing!
Knowing how much Bad Religion represented to Tony and seeing them playing one of my favorite NUFAN songs is also just breath-taking.

I really hope a lot of people buys this comp. Really.

kako_nd (October 30, 2013)

Still not an easy subject to talk about and for sure and for many, things haven't healed properly so far either.

I got the cd on the mail today (btw, well done FAT for the nicely arranged/coordinated international logistics to match the release day).

Karina's, then one after the other.. each one with a symbolic meaning, style, signature.
Very special moment and proud of my favourite's Useless ID for such an amazing interpretation on "Frances Stewart".

This is so incredible, beautifully touching that I cannot think of anything else but to somehow thank each band and FAT (Mike) for the effort on putting this together. Hopefully putting together some time in the future as after all this is an incredible paying tribute rendition and speechless cause.

longshot (October 30, 2013)

Also noteworthy on this is the Useless ID track. Shit's dope. That band always delivers.

krazykarl84 (October 30, 2013)

Listened to this at work today front to back...and I'll be damned if I didn't' nearly cry the way this one open's up-not usually a fan of songs done like that, but Karina's song is like a eulogy in and of itself-such a haunting, somber, track-great rendition.

The flatliner's song was pretty good I thought too, and pennywise pulled off a good rendition (reminded me of pre-land of the free? era pennywise) but it's hard to compare with Strung Out's 'Soulmate" That was just mindblowing.

skeetopunk01 (October 30, 2013)

This is one of the best comps I've bought in years. Bravo. Solids bands playing NUFAN songs... my high hopes were not crushed.

facetofacereunion08 (October 30, 2013)

I like it but as many are saying I wish there were more No Use songs and fewer of his solo stuff. No "Feeding the Fire"? C'mon now!

LocalResidentFailure (October 30, 2013)

"I'm really enjoying this comp, but I wish there weren't* as many solo acoustic numbers. "

"Also, did anyone else kinda want more No Use songs and less Tony Sly songs?"

This. Also Strung Out song is killer, wish more of the skate punk bands had covered older NUFAN songs.

jwah (October 30, 2013)

Agree with Longshot that Strung Out's contribution is in fact fucking killer!!
They've done an amazing song justice. The best song they've done in a long time I'd say. Nailed it

rubikspube (October 29, 2013)

Why hasn't Fat sent me the digital download yet? I hate the mail and I hate waiting for it even more.

jimmynorville (October 29, 2013)

longshot, I also kind of was hoping for more No Use songs. It seems like a lot of emphasis on songs from later in his career even among the NUFAN songs. But I've come to terms with that since the track listing was announced a while ago. I think it fittingly brings more attention his solo career which may have been overlooked by many people seeing as it had only recently taken off.

MN_DrNick (October 29, 2013)

Let the waterworks begin.

madapril (October 29, 2013)

Love the Strung Out track... so clearly Strung Out, yet it keeps the identity of the original clear and intact. Class move.

Dahlin (October 29, 2013)

Damn, been looking forward to this, just gave it a listen...and it's not for me. Many of NUFAN's strongest tunes are covered by bands I don't care about or not included at all. The bands I do like offer up (what seem to me) pretty bland renditions.

I guess the next time a beloved punk figure dies and a tribute album is created to benefit his family I'll have to step in and make sure the exact tunes I want are included by the bands I want to hear play them.

telegraphrocks (October 29, 2013)

Some awesome covers here. Even bands I don't like make some good contributions.
A few songs are a bit lackluster, but nothing's really "bad".
Definitely worth picking up.

Favorite track is "Homecoming", as The Bouncing Souls are one of my favorite bands, and it's also my favorite Tony Sly song.

Nap (October 29, 2013)

Totally forgot about how good is the Alk3 cover.

longshot (October 29, 2013)

To correct my post from earlier:

"I'm really enjoying this comp, but I wish there weren't* as many solo acoustic numbers. "

Also, did anyone else kinda want more No Use songs and less Tony Sly songs?

aplomb (October 29, 2013)

Trio fucking killed Straight From the Jacket. Love this.

Josiah (October 29, 2013)

Fuck. I love this album. I hate that this album exists. Miss you Tony.

daveyjones (October 29, 2013)

"Strung Out's contribution to this album is fucking killer." this.

KungPowza (October 29, 2013)

Good review, great album.

Nap (October 29, 2013)

This tribute is really awesome!!
There are just a few tracks that aren't so good, including Frank Turner, Anti-Flag and Bouncing Souls (I'm not including the bonus tracks which the only one I really enjoyed was Donot's Invincible).
My favorite are Teenage Bottlerocket, Lagwagon, Strung Out, NOFX and Old Man Markley.

obs: Simple Plan's JBE turned out really good. I was expecting something worse from them.

longshot (October 29, 2013)

Strung Out's contribution to this album is fucking killer. I'm really enjoying this comp, but I wish there's as many solo acoustic numbers. Gets too boring for me. I get that Tony's passing is a sad event, but Jesus, all the somberness can be a bit draining. There are also some really great bands that kinda give filler-esque versions of Tony Sly songs. The Bouncing Souls, whom I love, come to mind in that regard.

So yeah, I think my top three of this album are the tracks by Strung Out, Teenage Bottlerocket, and Snuff, who fucking kill it with On The Outside.

leirbag (October 29, 2013)

Who sing "toaster in the bathtub?, is not Justin Sane or Chris 2, that is the better version of the album

Daviedos9966 (October 29, 2013)

THIS IS AWESOME! But Simple Plan covering JBE acoustic? Hmmm..

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