NOFX are beyond punk rock veterans at this point. Not only have they been consistently touring and releasing music since the 80s, the band also hasn’t had any real member changes since the early 90s. After the release of their gut wrenchingly honest autobiography The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories, the California punks are back with their 13th studio album First Ditch Effort. Taking a page from their book (no pun intended), First Ditch Effort is easily the most honest and open album we’ve seen from NOFX to date.
The album already starts off differently with Melvin (on six string, some say he can’t sing…) taking over vocal duties as he screams about addiction to drugs and the live fast/die punk lifestyle they led on opener “Six Years On Dope.”
On their 2009 album Coaster, Fat Mike opens up on “My Orphan Year” about the loss of both his parents and his strained relationship with his father. Fat Mike expands on that with the short yet hard hitting “Happy Father’s Day”, but where the previous song had an overwhelming feeling of sadness, this one is nothing but rage as the music goes from a mid-tempo intro into a a circle pit inducing riff while he belts out “Fuck You Paul Burkette, I’m glad that you are dead” and sings about how he even changed his surname so that his father’s surname won’t live on.
Fat Mike continues to open up throughout the album whether it’s comparing his newfound sobriety to the environment (“California Drought”), his struggles with his need to cross-dress (“I’m a Transvest-lite”), depression (“I Don’t Like Me Anymore”), and the death of a close friend, Tony Sly of No Use For A Name (“I’m Sorry Tony”). While many of the songs are incredibly personal, there’s still the occasional political song like “Oxy Moronic” critiquing the pharmaceutical industry or “Generation Z” which details how we’re screwing future generations and down a path of destruction with an outro that’s very reminiscent of The Decline.
At first the album was a bit of a grower for me, which is part of the reason I waited so long to post about it. The lyrical matter at times seems intrusive, almost like you’re peering into a diary or listening into a private therapy session, and that doesn’t make for an easy listen. They return to their roots a bit with earlier punk sounds that remind me a lot of Ribbed at times, but also throwing in things like an acappella intro or incorporating synthesizer and paired with the serious nature of a song switching into a more joke song made it seem like the album didn’t gel well at first. But the more I listen to it, the more I like it. The songs themselves are good, the album’s honesty is truly refreshing (if not difficult to swallow at times) and these songs ARE classic NOFX. A solid album, NOFX has proven once again that they have no intentions of slowing down.