Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tony Sly of No Use for a Name: RIP

I should have printed this a month ago when I heard this news from an old punk rock friend of mine on facebook. But, you know, time passes. You get too busy to attend to your blog. And whatever. I'm still bummed about it, Tony Sly's passing. He was only 41 years old. And still, after a month-long autopsy, no one knows why the fuck he kicked the can so young. 

Flashback to 1995: In the 7th grade I would routinely soak in Leche Con Carne!, while ripping a bowl in the morning after Mom left for work, before skating to school. Leche was probably the last good album of No Use For a Name's early style. Sly and the rest of NUFAN held on to their hard-edge punk roots till the later half of the '90s before toning down their aggressive tunes to embrace a more domesticated sound. Sadly, that sound of punk sterility opened the door for bands like Blink 182 to capture the hearts and minds of teenagers and radio DJs who had no idea what punk rock is or means (or who care, for that matter). 
And by the time I was a senior in high school, I totally sucked up their transformation as well. Wallowing in my own self-pity when my whore of a girlfriend slept with someone new every weekend, NUFAN's More Betterness provided me a comfort and warmth that alcoholism could not. I burned it out eventually. Two years later, I fell in love with More Betterness yet again when another girlfriend fell out of love with me my sophomore year of college. Still, NUFAN's continual devolution  over the years itched my conscience to a such a degree that I pretty much abandoned them completely by the mid-2000s. They never returned to the adrenaline-rushed chords of Leche  (and I burnt that album out long ago), instead slipping ever depressingly into the poppy love-punk groove of FM station material.   
Not that authentic punk rock can't be poppy and smothered with lyrics about love or constant broken hearts. (The Ramones prove that it can be.) It just can't be those things without having an edge. Which is why NUFAN just barely gets away with remaining a punk band (in my book) and Blink 182 does not. Sure, their early stuff sounds a dick-load more like Jughead's Revenge than their later stuff, hot and pure and ready to burst all over anyone who's ready to suck it up. Maybe they lost that hard-on as they got older. We all do. And if punk rockers are just a bunch of ravenous, angry pussies, the last thing we want to see is a limp dick in our faces. 

Tony Sly and NUFAN, however, tried to hold on to that edge for as long as they could. I have a sad intuition that might have been what did Sly in. Good for him. 

Here's one of my favorite songs from Leche Con Carne! that always brings me back to 7th and 8th grade.  It was also one of the first anti-war songs I ever sincerely listened to or understood in my youth. The lyrics are printed below it: 


                                       How many people, how many have died?

I'm feeling lucky and afraid at the same time
How many times have you sat home and wondered why?
We always hear about the U.S.A. but not the other side
In fields of agony everybody dies
How many humans, how many does it take?
We get a cedar box they get a body rake
How many lives does it take before we can end this war?
Bring Johnny home soon he forgot what the fuck they
were fighting for...In fields of agony
I don't want to die or be sent home on a cargo plane
A tag on my toe without my name because I'm one of a million
A million
How many weapons, how many do we need?
What about the economy, what about the economy?
You'll be the hero at the end of your catastrophe
It can't be stopped with unity with collaboration of
you and me...and human fields of agony...

And below you can hear the pussified acoustic version they made of the song in the 2000s. The contrast illustrates NUFAN's transformation over the years. But the spirit of resistance still resonates in both versions, as it did for NUFAN throughout their career, and as it did for Tony Sly till the end of his life. Another brother bites the dust. Tony Sly:November 4, 1970 – July 31, 2012, Dead at 41. R.I.P.

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