I did not intend for this to happen. But there is a bit of a story here. I was at work last Friday (not this most recent Friday). Things had slowed down, included in that was my brain. I was thinking about the world and music and some how my mind wondered over to the new NOFX album Coaster. This was a fairly unusual thought to be having on a Friday night, except that I had recently read that FAT WRECK CHORDS were cutting prices on CD’s to $10.00. So somehow I decided that spending ten dollars on a CD was worth it to listen to a band I hadn’t checked in with since the 90’s. This is what we do in this country. We spend the money we earn on shit we don’t need and there are two things I can say about the new NOFX album. #1 is I certainly don’t need it. I own Punk in Drublic. Frankly I don’t need any other pop punk album other then that because the genre was perfected upon this records release in 1994. #2 is that yup, this is a NOFX record. It’s got power chords, that signature bass sound, rapid blast beats and lyrics that are, sadly getting increasingly less intelligent and worth while.
This isn’t to say there aren’t some highlights. One of them is that the album is only 12 songs. Coaster never gets over burdened in repetition, at least not any more then pop punk can. And no doubt the first four tracks are strong. It seems over the years that Fat Mike has gotten a bit more “politically minded” (never mind the fact that Propgandhi is no longer on the label and that rocking just against Bush isn’t really exploring all options, but I digress). So “We Call it America” comes as a bit of a surprise from a dude that wrote “Liza and Louise” and so many sequels to that male fantasy of the lesbian experience story. He also tackles, for perhaps the first time, something personal with “My Orphan Year” which is a pretty fantastic song musically and somehow endearing despite Fat’s gross out humor and drug addled topics that litter the album and the history of the band. Hearing Fat Mike sing about the death of his parents and getting personal on a NOFX album for the first time is refreshing.
After that it’s down hill. “Creeping out Sara” just feels awkward as Fat Mike pontificates about a drug induced meeting with Sara from Tegan and Sara. The line “This Jew knows about the Juno’s” has to be one of the worst lines ever etched in a song by anyone. Yes, I get it, it’s supposed to be funny. And I do appreciate that NOFX has always tried to add some humor to their music, but this just isn’t really that insightful. So when you add in songs like “The Quitter” and “I AM an Alcoholic” and drag out all the other instances when the band is getting drunk and high you realize that perhaps NOFX has lost that creative edge they once had. And while I appreciate the Atheist sentiments of songs like “Blasphemy (The Victimless Crime)” and “Best God in Show” somehow I think the grand argument could do with out these entries. While I certainly agree with the message, the delivery just falls short for me.
Also, and this has to be said, there are no EL HEFE songs on this album. What the fuck guys? I am in need of the Hef here. There is something about those reggae inspired jams, complete with trumpet that just seems to be a defining aspect of NOFX. Without that stuck haphazardly in the middle of the album I get fatigue. By the time we hit track 7, “Eddie, Bruce and Paul” which is probably the strongest track on the album I seem to loose interest. Which is probably okay because the album just continues with more of the same.
The upside to all of this is that I have revisited much of the NOFX back catalog from yesteryear. I also don’t want NOFX to go away. For all the problems they illicit, I feel that if a band like this can survive for over 25 years now, that maybe punk rock and the sub genre of pop punk has a shot. Because pop punk music, while juvenile and often appealing to the lowest common denominator of my musical intellect is fun as shit to listen to and bounce of the walls with. That NOFX still wants to provide this for a new crop of snotty nosed, doe eyed 15 year old boys makes me feel a little better about the world. Yea, I wish they would do a slightly better job (The Ergs and Dillinger Four come to mind), but you can’t ask a 15 year old boy to grow up when they are 42.