Review || NOFX - "Single Album"

NOFX, the self-proclaimed third best punk band of our times, are set to release their 14th full length studio record titled "Single Album" on February 26th 2021 through Fat Wreck Chords.

Before I display my thoughts on NOFX’s newest body of work, I wish to share a short and very personal view I have for them, just to put things into perspective. 22 years ago I attended my first punk show; NOFX were fresh off releasing what I consider my favourite record of theirs, "So Long And Thanx For All The Shoes", and their show in Athens, Greece is in my top 3 shows of all time to this damned day. I’ve seen them play over a dozen times since, always abroad, because “the Greeks beat up the opening punk band” and, for the most part, all of their shows are completely fun and memorable, while some were amazing, i.e. seeing "The Decline" live was just hallmark. The band shaped an incredibly tremendous part of my musical aesthetic, not just because their music was so ground-breaking but mainly because they inspired, probably, over one hundred bands I fell in love with and they taught me valuable lessons on how great records are produced, how song-writing works best, how making music should be a unique experience each time you either record or just put on a record for a spin as a fan of it. Sadly, it’s been an exceptional journey for over 20 years for me and the Epi/Fat sound of punk rock but for the past 5 years at least, that sound is rapidly evolving into something that doesn’t interest me for the most part, because it’s either too technical or too metal (Jesus Christ, no). I never thought I’d say this, but there are very select few proper bands coming out who sound close to NOFX and while the “big” bands from the 90’s are still around and somewhat pivotal, we’re almost at the end of the line folks. 

That being said, it doesn’t mean I belong with the large group of people, who, as they get old, grow out of the music they listened to as teenagers. Punk rock generally holds a large piece in my musical preference, I still go to punk shows regularly -not right now, of course- and I still listen to a ton of new bands or the fresh material of on-going bands, like NOFX. People who find nothing interesting in new and contemporary music, whether punk rock or pop or whatever else for that matter, don’t have a lot of my respect.

The last NOFX record I found amazing was “Wolves in Wolves’ Clothing”. “Coaster” and “Self Entitled” were mostly great, “First Ditch Effort” was alarmingly mediocre, and the split record with Frank Turner was a great idea (which worked well for Frank Turner) and I started to get less and less excited; I didn’t even give the second edition of the 7" Of The Month Club in 2019 a proper listen, I did however show renewed interest in reviewing the newest LP “Single Album”. 

Originally destined to be a double LP (pun intended, I guess) the album consists of ten songs, four of which were already released for the aforementioned seven inch of the month club, albeit re-recorded and somewhat re-approached musically. Largely the best aspect of “Single Album” are the lyrics; Mike delivers very personal, hurtful stories and insights into his view of the world and his life at the time of writing most of these songs. "The Big Drag", "I Love You More Than I Hate Me", "Grieve Soto" and of course "Your Last Resort" showcase very strong, gut wrenching lyrics, while "Doors And Fours" is a very harsh look at the 80’s hardcore punk scene and the prevalence of drug use. The first and the latter songs have a unique -by NOFX standards- musical approach, as they are basically hardcore punk songs, an element that surprised me and totally fits the outcome. "Grieve Soto" is an Adolescents-sounding homage to Steve Soto’s passing and "Your Last Resort" refers to Mike’s breakdown of a personal partnership with his second wife. So, basically, this isn’t a “fun” NOFX sounding record by no means, it does however take a few lighter turns in the most classically sarcastic way, which NOFX are widely popular for. "My Bro Cancervive Cancer", "Fuck Euphemism" and "Linewleum" are trademark songs (and trademark titles), where a sometimes serious message gets conveyed with slick-wit lyrics, accompanied by some of the best musical points on this record. The fact, however, that I’m not a reggae enthusiast and that my favourite tune on “Single Album” is "Fish In A Gun Barrel", pinpoints whatever you can call a problem about this LP; this is the only song I found, where the music, the lyrics, the choice of words, the phrasing and emphasizing of some of them over others and the profoundly interesting vocal pattern fit together perfectly. Yes, "Linewleum" is a great idea on paper and it’s good both lyrically and musically, but it’s NOT "Linoleum" on any level and, while I know this is the point -plus the many small facets of the song to trick people’s mind is kind of genius- on the whole, it’s a perfect example of how “Single Album” isn’t musically challenging, again by NOFX standards (And I haven’t even been a "Linoleum" fan for so many years now). "Fuck Euphemism" is another good example to my point; its lyrics are great, although sound somewhat unbalanced at times, like wanting to say too much in a small window of time, but musically this one is far behind from other songs on the record. 

I’m putting “Single Album” in the good to great category of NOFX records. It’s somewhere between “Coaster”, “Self Entitled” and “First Ditch Effort”. It could have been “Wolves in Wolves’ Clothing” but I wish Mike will challenge himself musically on a higher level with their next LP this year, which is set to be released in November.

(For a NOFX record) 7/10    

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