Thursday, October 30, 2008

NoFX and Rancid - BYO Split Series Vol. 3 (2002)

Covers are a very mixed bag and BYO Split Series Vol. 3 captures that essence perfectly with a handful of brilliant remakes and a few tired rehashes. On one hand this is a unique and interesting album where NoFX and Rancid, vanguards of punk and very close friends, cover a half dozen of each others best songs. Just being able to juxtapose each bands' take on the other merits a listen for any fan. And while a lot of the album just feels tired and boring, there are some genuine standouts that rival the original material.

NoFX really steals the show here. They infuse their usual energy and original approach into some of Rancid's best songs and come out with great covers that seem fresh and familiar at the same time. A wide cross-section of Rancid's catalog is sampled here covering everything from the influential Let's Go to (then most current) Rancid (2000). Great care was smartly taken to avoid "radio songs" like "Time Bomb" and "Salvation" and focus on "fan favorite" gems like "Antennas", and "Tenderloin" in a true tribute to the band and their legions of fans. Although I don't understand why they changed "Radio" to a reggae ballad if they already had "Corozon de Ore". Overall the NoFX half of the album has an insane amount of energy and strikes a good balance between the two bands' sounds.

Rancid's contribution is on the whole much less consistent. Without going into too much history, the band was in and interim period, coming off of two poorly received albums and fractured by side projects, and you can tell right away. Just like on Rancid (2000) the band takes a "hardcore for hardcore's sake" approach to BYO Split Vol. 3. Most of the songs feel tired and repetitive and get stuck in loops of power chords occasionally peppered by overly notey bass solos. I never like it much before, but "Don't Call Me White" really stands out and sound like something a garage band, not a platinum record selling band, recorded thanks to Matt Freeman's bland and repetitive vocals. But just like 2000, there are a few noteworthy gems. Thankfully frontman Tim Armstrong nails "Bob", by adding his now infamous slurred vocals but keeping the songs original tone, tempo and passion intact. And "Vanilla Sex" almost sounds better than the original thanks to production values that were absent on S&M Airlines.

In the end, BYO Split Vol. 3 comes off as an inconsistent album, but it definitely merits a listen by any punk fan. Even if some of the songs are less than perfect there are a few exceptional standouts, and it's always fun to hear your favorite songs preformed by another band. But the "newness" of the songs wears off on repeated listens and you're left with "only" a unique part of punk history.

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