No Use for a Name

Keep Them Confused

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Tony Sly writes concise lyrics and simple singsong melodies. He always has. But there's real skill in that simplicity, because No Use for a Name's vitality never seems to flag. Keep Them Confused is the band's fifth studio record for Fat Wreck, and first since 2002's Hard Rock Bottom. They're still riding the energetic double-stamp rhythm of California skatepunk. But Sly and NUFAN have mellowed slightly with age, and Confused reflects that with nods to balladry, soul mates, and some promising songwriting depth. And what's wrong with that? You can't be a couch boy forever. "Divine Let Down" is a gentle ballad powered by a processed percussion shuffle and acoustic guitar -- it would fit nicely on Acoustic, Sly's 2004 split EP with Lagwagon's Joey Cape. Meanwhile, string effects tinge the backgrounds of "Black Box" and "Part Two," and "For Fiona" is a spunky love anthem. "You took my life, turned it around," Sly sings. "Put my feet back on the ground/I owe you, eternally." He'll never floor you with his bardic prose. But damn if he isn't endearingly pure in his devotion. There are rave-ups here, too -- "There Will Be Revenge," "Bullets," "Killing Time" -- and they're satisfying in the way No Use for a Name's always been. But it's in songs like "Apparition" (and the brief interlude before it) that the band's future might lie, because while it has its pick slides and high-volume chorus, its structure is bolder and it has a real presence. Fifteen years on, and No Use for a Name is bringing the energy with a nice twist of maturity.

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