NOFX are punk rock legends. Now I have a strong suspicion that the band will recoil at this statement. This is largely because they are so obviously in love with PREVIOUS punk rock legends. The Adolescents, Iggy Pop, Black Fag, Suicidal Tendencies, Bad Brains. The list goes on and on, and the vast majority of these bands are, well, there short-lived.
Interestingly, NOFX are now 12 albums deep into a career spanning nearly 30 years and a slow progression of stylistic choices that currently culminates in their latest album, “Self-Entitled.”
Punk rock is, for all intents and purposes, a purposeful and naturally short-lived venture. Adolescence goes hand-in-hand with aggression, finding oneself, rebellion, and punk rock. So you can’t particularly expect the middle-aged trio of NOFX to do anything even remotely rivaling their adolescent material and the punk rock prime of the late 70’s and early 80’s.
Yet that was never actually the purpose. “Self Entitled” is a perfectly competent album, and likely accomplishes a lot of what NOFX set out to do. I have a feeling that list was small. “Um, make a good rock album, man.”
Scattered about the twelve songs here are lighting fast guitar solos (Ronnie and Mags) classic NOF-infused comedy (I, Fatty) and some get in and get out punk rock anthems (basically the rest). What is lacking, interestingly, is an archetypical pseudo-ballad. All these songs are furiously short and fast-paced. This makes the album clock I under a half hour which isn’t some sort of disaster or calamity for a punk rock album, but is a bit disappointing considering what is here isn’t all that strong in the first place.
NOFX have always known how to right an excellent hook, even their modern incarnation. Some of these songs just sound dilated. “She Didn’t Lose Her Baby” sounds like it’s trying to say something, yet musically it’s about as derivative as store brand white bread. ‘Secret Society” is tight an anachronistic, which makes it fun and likable. Even better, the hook is memorable enough to bear repeating.
The group’s formula hasn’t been poisoned or lessened with age, at least not enough to justify fans turning their backs. There are some great pop-punk melodies and hooks, an absolute necessity. Fate Mike still croons accessibly, and the instrumentation is focused and immediate. Without any overwhelming flaws, Self Entitled remains a run of the mill album, not failing in any category but not showing any growth or exceptional songwriting to make it reign as a 30 years into a career as a band, it’s just about what I could come to expect. But on the other hand, the absolute “eh” averageness of Self Entitled makes me think that NOFX weren’t all that great to begin with. I like the fact that NOFX are still at it this long and still competent enough sort of. But then I ask the question- “um…why?”
Ryan Merkel is a cool writer guy and contributor all over the internet, from blogs on music to magazines about music to sites about playing music. He is currently founder of SunState Investing and is head editor of the music entertainment magazine, CultureTease. He has written two novels, and is currently working on a third full-length novel, surprisingly, not about music. His novel “Splatter the Noise” earned accolades for independent publishing. Be sure to check out: www.sunstateinvesting.com
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