01.Six Years on Dope
02.Happy Father’s Day
03.Sid and Nancy
06.I Don’t Like Me Anymore
07.I’m A Transvest-lite
09.Dead Beat Mom
10.Bye Bye Biopsy Girl
11.It Ain’t Lonely at the Bottom
12.I’m So Sorry Tony
Label: Fat Wreck Chords
Release date: October 7, 2016
Reviewed by Chad Jensen
I’ve been on a NOFX kick lately. I just finished reading their tell-all book “The Hepatitis Bathtub” and let me tell you, it’s a phenomenal read. Go out and buy it. I found it for cheap on Amazon.
This is one of the most unique bands in punk rock history. Their sustained success over three decades is a case study in the DIY punk rock ethos.
They really did do it themselves. I’ve got to give them their props.
When singer-songwriter Fat Mike once famously sang “its my job to keep punk rock elite”, he meant it. He takes it very seriously. It informs not only his songwriting but also his label Fat Wreck Chords.
Reading their book, you learn rather quickly that drugs go hand-in-hand with NOFX. Fat Mike talks about mostly staying away from drugs as a teenager, through college and most of the early days of NOFX and Fat Wreck, with the exception of alcohol.
A heroin addiction almost caused NOFX to kick out their drummer Erik “Smelly” Sandin. Fortunately, the ultimatum was enough to literally scare him straight. He’s been clean and sobes since the mid-90’s.
Fat Mike didn’t really start using drugs until he was in his 30’s. In their book, he talks about how it takes several Valium and a few Vodkas for him to even muster up the energy to get on stage. Mike eventually got strung out on painkillers and very recently kicked his habit in rehab. Before he did that, however, Mike and NOFX wrote and recorded a new record.
This is a review of NOFX’s new album “First Ditch Effort”. Some fans will be disappointed in the new record. And I understand why. It might not be as fast as previous NOFX albums but the songwriting is VERY good.
The record opens up with “Six Years On Dope” and it’s easily my favorite track on the album. It features guitarist Eric Melvin screaming on the verses with Fat Mike singing on the chorus. You want the Cliff-Notes version of Mike’s struggle with drugs and what sparked his decision to get clean? Read the lyrics to this song.
This album is replete with catchy punk rock songs. There’s no doubt Fat Mike has been heavily influenced as a songwriter by Bad Religion. He’s talked about it at length. But he also honed his own style of songwriting that blends the melodic song structure of Bad Religion with the riffy, technical discipline of RKL — another immensely influential band on Mike.
For the better part of the last 25 years, Mike has written some of the best songs in punk rock and he’s produced many of the best skatepunk albums ever produced. As he’s gotten older, his songwriting has stayed sharp, despite his drug abuse.
Never has it been so on point as it is on “First Ditch Effort”. I really have to tip my hat to him. The subject matter is a typical mix of comedy, stark life observations, political commentary and too much information (TMI). Those of you who have seen NOFX play over the last few years have noticed that he often dresses in women’s clothes. He openly discusses his predilection for cross-dressing on “I’m a Transvest-lite”.
One of the most poignant songs on the record is “I’m so sorry Tony” — written, of course, about No Use For a Name’s Tony Sly, who passed away in 2012. It opens with a piano intro and acoustic guitar, before exploding into quintessential NOFX.
“His dying isn’t tragic, it’s a fucking catastrophe.”
We all miss Tony Sly’s musical contributions but this song is a sad reminder that his family and friends feel his loss most keenly.
One of the smartest and funniest punk rock songs written in a long, long time is “Oxy-moronic”. It’s a song written about the proliferation of prescription drugs in Western culture and how doctors have become just as pervasive as your run-of-the-mill drug dealers.
In case you missed it, go check out the video NOFX made with Funny Or Die’s help for “Oxy-moronic”. This song is Fat Mike at his wittiest.
Overall, “First Ditch Effort” is a little bit different stylistically than what we’ve come to expect from NOFX. But it’s very good. The golden rule I’ve lived by when listening to an album for the first time is this;
Don’t make any determinations until you’ve listened to the entire thing at least three times.
If you do that with “First Ditch Effort”, I’m confident you’ll become just as addicted to it as I have. On a four-star scale, I give it 3.5 stars.