No Use for a Name - More Betterness! (retro review) (Cover Artwork)

No Use for a Name

More Betterness! (retro review) (1999)

fAT wreck chords

Few songwriters in punk rock have been able to construct a vocal melody with such lyrical precision quite like Tony Sly, and no one has been able to do it with such consistency over a career. He had this unique ability to use his voice as vehicle, almost as if he himself was inside, reaching out his hand to take you along for the ride. You’d be his co-pilot as he navigated across heartfelt ups and downs along the way, coasting along in a smooth and beautiful cadence. More Betterness! is the road that Tony constructed and then drove fourteen anthemic and passionate songs across; a slight detour from the fury and aggression of the releases that preceded it. This was the pivotal record in the bands discography, paving the way for future staples in their catalog powered simply by love and family life.

More Betterness! was the second and final record with Tony, long-time drummer Rory Koff, Matt Riddle and Chris Shiflett. The elements of the heavy, straightforward skate-punk LP that the foursome created in its predecessor, Making Friends, continued on their follow-up here. This time around, though, more seeds of emotion and gut-wrenching melodies were sprinkled throughout. It’s explosive from the get-go, and endorphins start to sizzle instantly with the slow build-up in “Not Your Savior,” which stays true to the NUFAN framework of blasting off with a Side A, Track 1 rocket. The song itself is near perfect, but embedded within it is about a minute of absolute perfection. Right before the 2:00 mark, Tony invites you into that vehicle, taking you on a quick, melodic trip filled with strings, backing vocals, (“PERMAAAANEEEEENTTT”) and rising guitars that do nothing but get your adrenaline flowing. In a similar vein, fan-favorite “Chasing Rainbows,” quickly replicates that same feeling with a chorus that just struts in this gliding fashion making it, dare I say, graceful?

The opening of the record right through to “Sleeping In” flaunts impeccable track sequencing. It’s stacked full of heaters and mid-tempo, almost radio friendly hits. It’s after this six-song rush that it hits a speed bump in “Fairytale of New York” that throws off the entire rhythm that was previously established. I can’t criticize the song itself; it’s a high-powered, SoCal take on The Pogues’s classic that bolsters an amazing dynamic between Tony and Cinder Block throughout, but where it sits in the holistic view of the record just seems out place, (although it is the final track on Side A.)

Side B, (or the latter half of the record,) is like the runner-up in a strongman competition – not as powerful as the first half, but still strong enough to compete with it. It features “Coming Too Close,” one of the more poppy, mainstream rock tracks in their collection, and it’s also where you find the true gem of the record, and perhaps of their entire discography. “Always Carrie” is easily the bands’ best deep track, (not included on “All the Best Songs,”) that just oozes pure melodic bliss. As simple as it is, the first hook in “Maybe you’re from another planet / One I want to invade,” encapsulates everything I adore about NUFAN – passion-driven, fist-raising songs that you feel like you’re a part of, as if you’re there harmonizing with Tony and belting out the words from deep within yourself.

More Betterness! is like a highway. It was traveled in a direction that left anger and immaturity in the rearview and transported the band to a world full of life’s celebrations and deep relationships, struggles and all.