The Songs of Tony Sly: A Tribute

NOTE: I started to drafted this review on 31 July 2015 and added to it at the same time in 2016 and 2017, I finally got around to doing a final check and edit this year in 2018.

We’re going to jump straight to the point here – I will not be giving this album a rating out of 10. I feel it too difficult and inappropriate to critique an album of this nature when it is obvious that each and every band involved has put so much emotion and effort into each song and tried their absolute best to honour Tony Sly. Now to take a step back, if anyone is reading this and doesn’t know Tony Sly (I can’t imagine I have any readers who don’t) he was the lead singer of punk band No Use For A Name, a member of folk punk band Scorpios and an absolutely phenomenal songwriter and solo artist. Sadly, Tony passed away in his sleep on this day three years ago (July 31 2012), leaving the punk world in shock and mourning for what has now been years. Fat Mike (of NOFX & Fat Wreck Chords) put it in better words than I ever could when he said “His death was traumatic. Horrible. I’ve had friends die, but this was different. Tony wasn’t finished.” In my opinion thats why Tony’s death had such an impact on a punk scene that is losing members on a regular basis, he just wasn’t finished and that was clear to everyone who listened to his music.

On the first anniversary on Tony Sly’s death Fat Wreck, the label that had put out all of his NUFAN and solo recordings, announced this tribute album that would be released in October of that year including 26 songs played by different bands, with a further 7 included as bonus tracks in the download of the album. Now, I could easily go through the album song by song describing how its played, what I like about it and don’t, but if anyone is interested in the play-by-play they can listen to the album themselves. One of the more special aspects of the album was the directive for artists to take Tony’s songs and mix them up, if they’re NUFAN songs, artists were encouraged to play them slow and almost acoustic, and Tony’s solo songs were encouraged to be played fast and with a full band, to really mix up what Tony had created and not just make a carbon copy of his songs. This was taken on by a good proportion of bands and when it came off it created the most special moments of the album.

It’s no surprise that the album ends with the NUFAN song “International You Day” probably their most famous and best song sung by Joey Cape – Tony Sly’s closest friend in the music industry. This song is clearly the highlight of the album and it doesn’t matter who has been listening to the album, if they’re a Tony Sly fan and they’ve managed to make it to this point without shedding a tear, this will break them. This song will bring a tear to even the most hardened and jaded of Tony Sly and NUFAN fans. I have never before heard a song sung with so much emotion, so much passion and so much genuine hurt without it being screaming out for attention or help; it’s genuine pain with no expectation of it easing. Joey sings the lines “without you my life is incomplete, my days are absolutely gray” with absolute conviction, as a listener you could almost get caught up in the song and think Joey

I can’t criticize this album for many things, if anything. It was clearly put together with a lot of thought and emotion and I imagine has come out exactly as Fat Mike invisioned. I do, however, have two comments on the song choice for the album; Firstly I think that Brian Whalstrom’s cover of “The Answer is Still No” (which is included in the bonus tracks) should have been included on the main album. Brian is one of the least known artists to get a song on the extended version of the album and that is the likely reason he is a bonus song and not on the main album. However, Brian’s amazing voice makes for what I believe to be one of the best covers on the album, and the fact that he played in Tony’s “other” band, Scorpios, should be enough to get him a place on the main album. The second comment I have on the album is the decision to not have a band cover the song “Liver Let Die” by Tony Sly. This song was the last song Tony ever recorded, included as the only original song on his side of his last split album with Joey Cape, “Acoustic – Vol. 2”, it is hauntingly beautiful and fitting with the chorus “everybody sing along, this could be tonights one more song”. When I first heard the tribute album I was thinking that I would have liked to hear one of Tony’s good friends such as Joey Cape cover this song, however in retrospect the decision to not have this song on the album is absolutely the right decision. This leaves the last song Tony ever recorded as his and only his, like a personal message to each and every one of his fans, it’s perfect.

Overall I find it hard to rate or comment on the quality of this album, I believe Tony would be infinitely proud of his friends banding together to create what is one of the most meaningful and emotionally filled tribute albums ever put together.

Rest In Peace Tony Sly.

Matt Power
1 August 2018

Full Disclosure

Feeling Sad
Drinking Coffee (x1)
Recent Listening Frank Turner
How I Listened Modern Vinyl (legacy turntable)

Note Tony Sly was one of my all time favourite song writers; he passed away 6 years ago today.


The Songs of Tony Sly A Tribute

Artist Various
Album The Songs of Tony Sly: A Tribute
Released 29 Oct 2013
Label Fat Wreck Chords
Tracks 26 Standard/33 Extended
Run Time 1 hour 31 minutes
Genre Punk

The Songs of Tony Sly A Tribute