So-Cal punk veteran Tony Sly, longtime vocalist and guitarist for No Use For A Name, has released his new studio full-length solo album, Sad Bear. His second acoustic solo album on Fat Wreck Chords, Sad Bear is man who has been entrenched in the punk scene for the better part of twenty-two years, who realizes, at last, that when one grows up there is more to music, indeed more to life in general, than punk rock. With twelve original songs whose content goes into some rather personal issues, Sly tackles adulthood, friendship, family, parenthood, sadness, introspection, doubt, love and loss, observations and experiences, and trials and tribulations. Other topics arise throughout the album, of course, a bit less personal, but definitely relevant to real life.
Some of the songs on Sad Bear are actually quite beautiful, just acoustic strumming and somber vocals, with a bit of organic accompanying instrumentation, like the opener “Dark Corner.” “Devonshire and Crown” is a drinking song full of open thought, with a nice Celtic quality to it. “Hey God” is musically melancholy and lyrically deep, almost like a letter to a God that one doesn’t even fully believe in, listing all of the awful things in this world and asking how He can allow them to exist, if He exists at all. “Burgies, Basics & You” has an alt-country feel to it, and the lyrical content starts with contraries specific to he and someone else, then sort of turns to a confessional. “Frances Stewart” is the folk song of the record, while “Homecoming” is more folk punk in sound and features additional vocals by Joey Cape of Lagwagon. “Flying South” is what I can only refer to as soft acousti-pop with keys. And “San Mateo Fog Line,” plain and simple, is a moving singer/songwriter piece.
More and more, I have been noticing that members from the longtime punk bands I grew up with, even a few from my absolute favorites, have sort of broken off from their full band line-ups to pursue other musical endeavors. Being that music is what they have known for so many years, they are reluctant to give it up, and understandably so. Therefore they pick up acoustic guitars and scrape the barbs from their vocal cords in order to spend their adult years as troubadours of the alt-country and/or folk scene. We have all seen this happen with artists such as Chuck Ragan (Hot Water Music), first with Rumbleseat, and then his solo work; Tim Barry (Avail), when he started playing solo under his own name; Joey Cape (Lagwagon), who released his first acoustic solo album in 2008; John K. Sampson, formerly of Propagandhi, when he put together The Weakerthans; the fellas from The Sainte Catherines, with their side band Yesterday’s Ring; and with Buddy (Less Than Jake) and Jake (Rehasher), with their folk punk duo Coffee Project. One can even search the more obscure side of the punk scene and find projects like The Pisshead Blues Band by Jon of Misery, Matt of Civil Disobedience, and Bree of Deadstate. I could go on and on, believe me.
No Use for a Name are still together, and I hear tell they have an album in the works right now that will probably be released early 2012. We shall see.
In the meantime, check out Tony Sly’s Sad Bear for a taste of his acoustic solo songs. And watch for him touring in support of his solo material.