Strung Out – Top Contenders – Review

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I know what some of you may be thinking, “You’re covering a best-of record? Really?” And while that may be the case with the recently released cash grab compilation, “Top Contenders: The Best Of Strung Out,” — which stands as the group’s most complete retrospective to-date, spanning Strung Out‘s 22 year career, 7 full-length albums, as well as a host of miscellaneous 7”s and EPs — this quintessential punk band pulls enough weight to justify dropping a few bucks for a completely remixed (no not in a trance or rap way) collection of singles and top hits from the bands busy past.

This wouldn’t be Strung Out’s first entry into compilation field, as we saw the band drop 2009′s “Prototypes And Painkillers,” which gave fans a slew of unreleased and demo material that many had been foaming at the mouth for.  If that was released to appease hardcore fans,  ”Top Contenders: The Best Of Strung Out” would then best be described as a career sampler for those who have never, or only briefly, listened to the band before. This is because almost all of the songs on this compilation, which has been wonderfully restored and remastered by Validus Recording’s own Ryan Greene, have all been released before. Tracks, from “Mind Of My Own” off their cult record, “Twisted By Design,” to the Jim Cherry tribute track “Swan Dive” originally featured on 2004′s “Exile In Oblivion,” are arranged to show off the bands best moments for inquiring new listeners.

The shock comes when you listen to the bands brand new material of this compilation. During my first listen through, I hit “City Lights” and thought it was some really old demo from some EP that had escaped my youth, and I just couldn’t understand why I hadn’t heard this steady, melodic punk rock track before, only to find out it is one of three new tracks from “Top Contenders: The Best Of Strung Out.” They fit in well with recent outings such as “Agents Of The Underground” because of the focus on swift fretwork and Jason Cruz‘s smokey croon.

So if you are a long-time fan and have been listening to Strung Out since 1994′s “Another Day In Paradise,” even sporting a SO tattoo (some pictures of which made it into this release’s inner notes) then I wouldn’t recommend you pick up this purely best-of effort, simply on the principle that you probably already have most of these songs on CD or vinyl already. The original material is worth the buy, but you might find buying them as singles a more appealing venture (something that makes me sick as I say it). Now, for those who listened to Bad Religon, NOFX, Against Me!, and the like, but for what ever reason didn’t check out the melodic punk efforts of Strung Out (shame on you for not hearing of them before), this compilation is a must buy. Some of the best and most memorable songs from Strung Out‘s entire catalog is featured on “Top Contenders: The Best Of Strung Out” and those unfamiliar with the band would do well to pick it up. [Staff]

Score: 3.5 (out of 5)

Release Date: July 19th, 2011
Record Label: Fat Wreck Chords
Genre: Punk Rock

RIYL: Pulley, Lagwagon, A Wilhelm Scream

Track Listing:
1. Firecracker
2. Velvet Alley
3. Mind Of My Own
4. Everyday
5. City Lights
6. Too Close To See
7. Vanity
8. Mission Statement
9. Cemetery
10. Bring Out Your Dead
11. Analog
12. Black Crosses
13. Ashes
14. Monster
15. Letter Home
16. Blueprint Of The Fall
17. Population Control
18. Swan Dive
19. Calling
20. Saturday Night
21. Exhumation Of Virginia Madison
22. In Harm’s Way
23. Scarecrow
24. Cult Of The Subterranean
25. Here We Are
26. Matchbook

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