Here’s the second part of our guide to NOFX. Last time around, we dipped into prolific punks’ 32-year career by looking at every album from 1988’s ‘Liberal Animation’ up to their 1996 release, ‘Heavy Petting Zoo’.
Next up, we’re paying close attention to their 1997 follow-up, So Long And Thanks For All The Shoes up until their most recent album, Self Entitled…
**SO LONG AND THANKS FOR ALL THE SHOES (1997, Epitaph) **The hardest thing for a punk band to address is growing old. It’s easy to sing about how much growing old sucks when you’re young, but what happens when you’re starting to notice wrinkles and the odd grey hair? If you’re NOFX, then you confront the subject with unashamed self-awareness and self-deprecating wit. So Long and Thanks for All the Shoes is a classic punk rock record from start to finish. Musically, it covers everything from hardcore (Murder The Government) to skatepunk (Dad’s Bad News) and ska (All Outta Angst), and the band switch effortlessly between genres. Fat Mike’s voice is at its sarcastic and complaintive best here, and lyrically he covers everything from girls with a limited vocabulary (Monosyllabic Girl) to bad drug experiences (Kids of the K-Hole). He even displays his more sensitive side in Falling in Love, which documents the fictitious tale of dying in a plane crash with a loved one. Album opener It’s My Job To Keep Punk Rock Elite throws down the gauntlet, and over the next 15 songs, the band makes good on their promise. Essential track: 180 Degrees
**PUMP UP THE VALUUM (2000, Epitaph) **NOFX’s eighth studio album was to be their last on Epitaph. It was a new millennium, and there was a new punk label in town: Fat Mike’s very own Fat Wreck Chords. And Now for Something Completely Similar kicks things off, and that’s exactly what we get: more classic NOFX tracks about sex (Louise / My Vagina) and drugs (Pharmacist’s Daughter / Herojuana). Clams Have Feelings Too (Actually They Don’t) and Thank God It’s Monday are stand out moments of hilarity, and the record as a whole is atypically silly, but Fat Mike approaches the topics with ingenuity and the band display technical proficiency throughout. Dinosaurs Will Die is a ripping skate punk assault on the consumerist greed that plagues the music industry, and one of the finest statements in 21st century punk rock. Elsewhere, Eric Melvin busts out the accordion for the album’s closing track, and the polka-punk fusion of Theme From a NOFX Album rounds off another excellent addition to NOFX’s discography. Not bad for a bunch of old geezer’s “pushing forty”… **Essential track: **Dinosaurs Will Die
**THE WAR ON ERRORISM (2003, Fat Wreck Chords) **NOFX have always been a political band, but with The War on Errorism the politics came to the forefront. Their attentions were turned to then President George W. Bush (his face appears in clown paint over an American flag on the cover) and the ills of his administration are the inspiration behind some seriously seditious songs on this record. The opening four-track assault of The Separation of Church and Skate, The Irrationality of Rationality, Franco Un-American and Idiots Are Taking Over are amongst the most biting commentary in the band’s arsenal; with subject matter ranging from the homogeneity in punk rock, through to corruption and greed and the war crimes perpetrated by the US government. Of course, this is a NOFX record, so there’s a healthy dose of humour to balance things out (She’s Nubs and Mattersville). And the band successfully built on the sonic experiments of their last two records, enlisting the help of extra members on additional guitars, brass and keyboards to impressive effects. **Essential track: **The Separation of Church and Skate
WOLVES IN WOLVES CLOTHING (2006, Fat Wreck Chords) Any band that makes it to ten albums can be forgiven for occasional inconsistencies and Wolves in Wolves Clothing is littered with a few. For starters, there’s too many songs: album opener 60% could apply to how much of the material should’ve actually made the final cut. And at the risk of criticising a band for addressing important issues, NOFX just aren’t as well-versed in politics as the likes of Dead Kennedys or Propagandhi. Fat Mike does better as an apologetic agitator than an angry activist, and it’s during the more tongue-in-cheek moments (USA-Holes) that his songwriting skills shine. But by 2006, he was on a one-man mission to overthrow the Bush administration, and songs such as Leaving Jesusland suffer because of this; what starts as a damning critique of extreme right-wing fundamentalists quickly becomes an unfocused attack on Christianity as a whole. It’s not a bad album, it’s just not as good as the previous three releases. Essential track: Seeing Double at the Triple Rock
**COASTER (2009, Fat Wreck Chords) **Coaster was NOFX’s second album with producer with Bill Stevenson (Descendents/Black Flag). It was also the first Fat Wreck Chords release to be priced under $10 in the US, as part of the label’s new scheme to keep the price of CDs at a lower cost. The title refers directly to the diminishing value of albums (the vinyl version was called Frisbee and featured different artwork) and the cover is reminiscent of graphic design from the 1970s, the golden era of album art. It’s somewhat indicative, as the album contains 12 sonically adept but lyrically-confined tracks that will satisfy the hardcore fans, but that’s about it. Songs like Creeping Out Sara and Eddie, Bruce and Paul suggest Fat Mike was reaching for whatever topics came into his head. But there are moments of musical and lyrical flair, from the reggae-driven Best God in Show to the jazz-infused I Am Alcoholic. And the unexpected honesty of My Orphan Year is extremely affecting – a song which details the death of Fat Mike’s parents, and showcases a vulnerability we hadn’t heard before on previous releases. It’s a heartbreaking confessional piece and one of the stand out moments of the band’s entire career. Essential track: My Orphan Year
SELF ENTITLED (2012, Fat Wreck Chords) NOFX have spent the last 30 years writing anti-authoritarian anthems. If their credibility and relevance to today’s musical landscape was ever in doubt, their last studio album is all the evidence you need that a youthful attitude can stay with you for life. Self Entitled is a focused, biting and direct-to-the point collection of fast-paced melodic punk rock songs that blend introspective personal musings with social and political observations to near-perfection. Back on The War on Errorism, Fat Mike detailed the coming together of two record collections after he met his first wife (We’ve Got Two Jealous Agains), and here we get the tragic separation of said collection following their divorce (I’ve Got One Jealous Again, Again). The lyrics are clever and poignant, and set to a gritty skate punk soundtrack that recalls their earlier more tough tones, they really hit home. She Didn’t Lose Her Baby is similarly melancholic, and further proof they the band can write great punk rock songs using a more serious lyrical approach. And witty humour plays an equal part in exposing the faults in our society (as with all the best NOFX albums) on tracks like I Believe in Goddess and 72 Hookers. Self Entitled recalls moments from their previous releases, whilst at the same time pointing towards a deeper, darker, self-examining form of song writing. The humour and controversial subject matter remain firmly in place, and the music is consistent and solid from start to end. After a couple of flawed releases, it was a welcome return to form, and a reaffirmation of the enduring worth of one of the most successful punk rock bands of all time. Essential track: I’ve Got One Jealous Again, Again
Miss the first part? Check it out here.