No Use for a Name has built its reputation on a solid foundation of hard-hitting punk, flooding its songs with melodies and fueling them with signature stop-start rhythms that thunder across the grooves, come to an abrupt halt, then pound off again in hyperdrive. Thus, it's a bit of a shock to find Hard Rock Bottom opening with a brief acoustic number, and although nothing else clocks in at this dawdling pace, a handful of mid-tempo numbers are scattered about as well. Equally startling is a cover of Sinéad O'Connor's "This Is a Rebel Song," a pusillanimous duet between Tony Sly and guesting chanteuse Karina Denike. While the Pogues long ago proved that Irish drinking songs were part and parcel of punk, what of violins and cellos? Not only do they add to the bitter atmosphere of "Rebel," but they positively swan their way around many of the songs' intros and middle breaks. However, with Ryan Greene in the producer's chair there's no need for concern; he keeps the sound pumping and the music kicking, with the strings merely creating melancholy and bittersweet atmospheres for the band to punch its way out of. After seven records, it's encouraging to see NUFAN taking chances and broadening its style somewhat, and there are still plenty of punchy numbers to keep the hardcore constituency happy -- driving songs like "Undefeated," "Dumb Reminders," and the anthemic "International You Day." Lead guitarist Dave Nassie positively shines throughout this set; from the searing leads on "Angela" through the pretty riff that opens "Nailed Shut" and the Who-esque power chords of "Any Number Can Play," he always has intriguing musical twists to contribute. As always, the powerhouse rhythm section keeps things slamming along underneath, while Sly keeps the emotions boiling throughout. NUFAN has never stood still, and Hard Rock Bottom finds the band pushing forward as forcibly as ever.
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AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene