Joey Cape / Tony Sly - Acoustic (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Joey Cape / Tony Sly

Acoustic (2004)

Fat Wreck Chords

If a cultural anthropologist were to look back on the first few decades of punk rock, I would imagine he would divide it into three distinct areas. The first would be the pioneers; bands like the Clash, the Misfits, all the way through to Bad Religion and Minor Threat. The third area would be the most recent bands; the post-Green Day explosion of melodic and mainstream-friendly bands. The second, would be the less glamorous late eighties and nineties; the middle child. Neither the oldest and most genre defining, nor the freshest and most current. But like some of you, my version of punk rock was defined during this intermediate period; the first bands I listened to were bands like NOFX, Pennywise and of course, No Use for a Name and Lagwagon.

Armed with this knowledge, Fat Wreck Chords has released this little record; a record almost entirely for the kids who discovered punk rock during this awkward middle period, and who better than two of the most memorable songwriters of the era: Joey Cape and Tony Sly. Each contributes six tracks, five culled from their respective bands output over the past few years, and one new track each; tracks which will presumably appear on full lengths from those bands in the future.

The concept is pretty simple, each songwriter performs acoustic renditions of their tracks. Both bands have often been accused of being little more than the sum of their influences; in both cases, it's fairly obvious that neither could have existed without NOFX and Bad Religion coming prior, but the acoustic compilation handily demonstrates that why memorable songwriting has distinguished them and allowed them to become influential all on their own.

Opening the record, Tony contributes one track from each of Making Friends, More Betterness, and Hard Rock Bottom and two from the likely favourite of No Use Fans, Leche Con Carne. In all cases, the renditions are faithful to the original, but now stripped down to just a "boy and his guitar".

For people familiar with the bands output, the tracks are instantly memorable, almost certainly because you already remember them. You can find yourself singing along because you already know the lyrics. The tracks don't deviate much from the original structure, and there isn't much emphasis on experimentation with the exception of "On the Outside" which is accompanied by a 50s R&B style harmonies and is probably the strongest of his contributions. The original track "Stunt Double" is certainly promising, but because of the fact that the rest of the tracks are so familiar, it almost seems strange to hear something new.

Joey's contributions are similarly chosen, taking tracks two tracks from Lagwagons best record Hoss, and a track each from Duh and Double Plaidinum. Rounding it out is a popular compilation track that was eventually released on Lagwagon's Leftovers B-Sides anthology. Frankly, unlike Tony who plays the tracks stripped down, Joey adds a variety of instruments and it quickly changes from "Lagwagon goes Acoustic" to "Bad Astronaut Goes Lagwagon". Some of the tracks are exceptionally well arranged, like "Violins" and "Wind in Your Sails" but others are far weaker, and a little overblown like "Move Your Car" and "Tragic Vision." In each of Joey's tracks, it seems like the songs go on a little too long and have too much going on. As a result, these tracks outstay their welcome more than a little.

I've always been a fan of No Use for a Name, but usually preferred Lagwagon's full lengths, which is why I was surprised to find myself gravitating towards Tony's simpler arrangements. Both contribute strong tracks, but Tony's reliance on the strength of the songs rather than the arrangements makes for a more satisfying half. Over all, the record isn't really for new fans - they would be better off taking a look at each bands full lengths - but it is a nice gift for the long term fans who might enjoy a fresh take on familiar and nostalgic tracks.