Strung Out - Top Contenders: The Best of Strung Out (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Strung Out

Top Contenders: The Best of Strung Out (2011)

Fat Wreck Chords

When a band makes the decision to release a "Best Of", "Greatest Hits", or any other retrospective, several questions must immediately be asked. First, how long have they been around, and how deep is their catalog? Next, is there enough interest in their fanbase? Finally, will there be any incentive to the listener, such as new songs or remastering/mixing of the original tracks? Strung Out clearly meets the the first two requirements, including over 20 years together and seven full-lengths under their belts. Furthermore, the band boasts what is arguably one of the most devoted collection of fans in punk rock.

Top Contenders offers a high-level view of the group's history of recordings, primarily focusing on the fan favorites, and common songs you'd expect to see on their setlist. Also included are three tracks exclusive to this release, which to many fans would be enough reason to purchase this record. Adding to the overall package, the band decided to go back to the original tapes and enlist their old friend Ryane Greene for full remixing and re-mastering of 23 songs. Regardless of how you may feel about Greene's production in the past, these new versions sound crisp, energetic and full of life. "Matchbook", "Mind of My Own" and the standout of the re-releases, "Too Close to See", sound almost brand new.

The three new songs, "City Lights", "Saturday Night" and "Here We Are" all offer the listener different shades of the band, bringing immediate questions as to whether or not these songs were cast aside throughout the years and revisited for this release. "City Lights" sounds like it could have fit very nicely onto Twisted by Design, with a consistent mid-tempo verse/chorus/verse/bridge/chorus arrangement–similar to "King Alvarez". "Saturday Night" would have been right at home on American Paradox and "Here We Are" is reminiscent of several tracks from Blackhawks Over Los Angeles.

Now, I'm going to divert from general observations and insight to go off on a bit of a tangent. If any member of the band reads this review, please answer me this–what is the reason you did not include "Paperwalls" (from Twisted by Design) on this retrospective, or on the Live in a Dive recording? For that matter, I've also never seen you play it live. Am I alone in how much I love this song? I always assumed it was a quintessential part of the catalog. Hell, I was even willing to let it slide when it wasn't included on the live record (Face to Face left "Disconnected" off theirs; must have been the thing to do). But not including it on your "best of"? Really? I can't even begin to tell you how many mix CDs or playlists included that cut. But, maybe I'm alone here, and the rest of the world viewed the song as "filler." I digress.

All in all, Top Contenders is a solid release for those wanting to dive into the band's material, or maybe just looking to upgrade songs from those scratched CDs left in your car all these years. Either way, a solid effort to not just cash in on re-released material, but to pay respect to a great collection of songs.