NOFX Essentials

NOFX Essentials

Eleven years after forming in Los Angeles, California, NOFX became a household name with the release of their most acclaimed album, 1994’s Punk in Drublic, right at the apex of the punk-rock revival. The record’s popularity was spearheaded by “Linoleum,” an intentionally hookless track that wasn’t even a single (the status-quo fatigue of “Leave It Alone” and “Don’t Call Me White”’s full-scale rejection of racism were). Whether it’s due to their controversial onstage antics, churlish banter, and/or leader Mike “Fat Mike” Burkett’s penchant for bratty wordplay and the imagery to match, NOFX are often mistaken for the clown princes of punk. But they are, under that surface of silliness, legitimate princes of punk—concerned citizens of the globe with bad musical manners. Over four decades of activity, each one of NOFX’s 15 studio albums became more suggestive of what defined the original punk ethos: an awareness of sociopolitical issues and a riotous willingness to make fast music about them. Granted, NOFX’s take on this is swaddled in a specific absurdity that continues to set them apart from their peers—an absurdity that still, admittedly, sometimes breaks free to target members of the unsuspecting public (such as Stephen Hawking on “There’s No ‘Too Soon’ If Time Is Relative”) or members of the band itself (such as drummer Erik “Smelly” Sandin on “Bob”). True enough, NOFX were purely puerile on “Shut Up Already” from their 1988 debut, Liberal Animation (an album that Fat Mike now, tellingly, considers their worst). But by “Bottles to the Ground,” they were candidly evoking the ravages of alcoholism. “We Called It America” loudly bemoaned the capitalistic crash of 2008. “Separation of Church and Skate” and “Franco Un-American” threw disruptive stones at the social ripples of the Bush administration. Read on for Fat Mike’s insight into some of NOFX’s biggest tracks. “Linoleum” “This song is maybe our most famous song. I don’t know. Is it because there’s no chorus or the lyrics don’t rhyme? I don’t know.” “Six Years on Dope” “‘Six Years on Dope’ is about the drummer of NOFX, Smelly, because he was on heroin for six years from, like, ’86 to ’92. He played Longest Line, S&M Airlines, and Ribbed on heroin. And he did a pretty damn good job. He was the craziest punk rocker I’ve ever met in my life when he was on heroin. So, the song was about him. We’ve been peeing in the same bowl for 40 years.” “It’s My Job to Keep Punk Rock Elite” “This is the coolest song. The progression is very different. The harmonies are very different, and it’s a punch in the face. It’s a great first track. I don’t know what my obsession is with being punk, or with why I have to alienate people and do things that bother people, but this song is about that. This is the first time I didn’t end a sentence. I end one of the lyrics with ‘scape’: ‘I’m not your f*****g scape…goat, apparently.’ So, that was kind of neat.” “Seeing Double at the Triple Rock” “This song was almost not on [2006 album] Wolves in Wolves’ Clothing. I’d cut it. And people said, ‘Oh, you got to put this song on.’ I thought it ruined the vibe because that album is very political and very serious, and that song isn’t. But it is a cool song. But I was trying to make a statement with that album, and I ended up putting a few funny songs on and leaving some really good songs off, like ‘Fermented and Flailing.’ It’s just about being at the Triple Rock Bar in Minneapolis. They closed down, and we got the Triple Rock sign! It’s going in the punk museum in Vegas that I’m opening. And the bar of the punk-rock museum will be called the Triple Down. Whatever. It’s a long story.” “The Brews” “I wrote it because I was driving down a Jewish neighborhood in LA, the Fairfax District, on a Saturday. And all these kids had shaved heads, but they had those curls [payot] that Jewish males have, and it looks like a skinhead gang but with locks taped to their sideburns. So, that’s when it came to me: skinhead gang of Jewish kids.”

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