Tag «NOFX»

Slam Dunk (North) 2019 – Live Review

This year’s Slam Dunk festival took place at two locations, the northern event in the beautiful Temple Newsham Park on the outskirts of Leeds, the southern date at the similarly picturesque Hatfield House Park near London.  What the aristocratic owners of these large country estates would make of the Slam Dunk attendees descending on their properties, I’d love to know!  Being punkers of a certain age, my wife and I had to plan our attendance with military precision – depositing our three kids with their grandparents, stocking up on supplies for a couple of nights of freedom from behaving like responsible adults and heading north with the Friday afternoon motorway traffic.  We spent the night before Slam Dunk North in nearby Sheffield with friends before heading to the show bright and early on the Saturday.  After negotiating our way through housing and industrial areas we arrived at the festival along with a few thousand other music fans.  With the smell of cheap cider in the air and the lunchtime sun shining, we made our way in and headed to the far side of the site to Fat Mike’s Punk In Drublic stage.  The line up had spent the last few weeks winding its way through Germany, Spain and France with the two Slam Dunk dates in the UK capping off this run through Europe.

We got to the stage just in time to catch the end of openers, The Bombpops, set.  They ripped through I Can’t and Jerk from 2017’s Fear of Missing Out, ending on Dear Beer from last year’s EP.  The band were super tight and I was disappointed not to have caught the whole set, hopefully they’ll be back this side of the Atlantic soon.

Next up were Anti-Flag, a band I’ve lost touch with over the past decade having previously enjoyed their output.  They launched into Die For Your Government, much to the appreciation of the assembled crowd and played a solid set spanning their twenty years plus of releasing music.  Despite it being around 1pm they managed to incite a giant circle pit during Broken Bones, after reminding us “Brothers and sisters, if someone falls down, we pick them back up”.  We were then treated to a couple of their poppier songs (Turncoat and This Is The End) before Fuck Police Brutality, a song written twenty two years ago that is as relevant now as it ever has been.  The set was rounded out with Cities Burn, American Attraction, Press Corpse and finally, singalong favourite Brandenburg Gate.  Having not really checked in with the band for a while I had been slightly ambivalent about checking them out however their performance, positivity and set list were all top notch.

Santa Barbara sextet, the Mad Caddies, then took the stage to share some reggae/ska punk love with the masses.  Despite lead singer Chuck not getting any sound out of his monitor for the early part of their set, the boys were sounding great.  The crowd was skanking and grooving along from the opening trumpet refrain of The Dirge to the last notes of oompah thrasher All American BadAss.  Personal highlights for me were Road Rash, Weird Beard and the cover of Propagandhi’s Nation States from last summer’s Punk Rocksteady album.

Keeping the ska punk vibe going, The Interrupters followed next.  My main exposure to the Bivona brothers and Aimee Interrupter is from my wife and nine-year-old daughter playing them in the car and around the house.  I’ve always appreciated their Hellcat inflected tunes and was looking forward to seeing them in person.  Friend Like Me got the crowd moving nicely and they went on to play Take Back The Power, On A Turntable, She’s Kerosene and She Got Arrested amongst others.  It could have just been me but it did feel like the energy in the crowd dropped a few songs into the set but this was by no means a reflection of the effort being given by the band.  They finished with This Is My Family adding a slightly prolonged singalong finale to the song which I could have done without but, overall, I was pleased to have caught The Interrupters live.

I first saw Lagwagon in 1998, headlining a show which also had NUFAN, Strung Out and Swingin Utters on the line up, a few months before Let’s Talk About Feelings came out.  I have a lot of time for this band and I waited patiently to see them for the fourth (fifth?) time while my compadres foolishly opted to hit the bar and food stalls.  Their set list focussed mainly on their mid to late nineties albums with Violins, Sleep, Razor Burn from Hoss; Alien 8 and Making Friends from Double Plaidinum and Change Despair, May 16 and After You My Friend from ‘Feelings.  Cog In The Machine got an airing from 2014’s Hang, I had been hoping for a few more from this album but they had played a lot of those songs when they played London last year so I wasn’t too disappointed.  With close to thirty years under their belts, it’s no surprise Lagwagon are consistently excellent live, with plenty of choreographed shredding and general tom foolery thrown in for good measure.  The rain started to fall as the set drew to a close, so after four and half hours at the Punk in Drublic stage I took a wander to find food, toilets and buy a long overdue round at the beer tent.

Millencolin played next however I opted to visit the Dickies stage to check out Saves The Day, a band my wife and I saw on our first sort of date in 2002.  I lost touch with the band’s music after Stay What You Are and was gambling on them playing songs from their first few records to make it worth my while straying from the Punk in Drublic stage.  They kicked off with At Your Funeral and Chris Conely’s vocal was instantly joined by the (slightly aging) crowd, transporting me back to when I was a wide eyed 20-year-old.  From there they played a string of songs from post SWYA albums and with a heavy heart I bid them farewell in order to line up more drinks and get a decent vantage point for Less Than Jake.

The rain had been falling steadily by the time Gainesville’s favourite sons bounced onto the stage.  They treated the decidedly damp crowd to all the classics (Jonny Quest, All My Best Friends Are Metalheads, History Of A Boring Town, Nervous In The Alley, Gainesville Rock City etc) along with a couple of newer tunes.  At one point the, slightly terrifying, LTJ mascot came on stage with a toilet paper gun and papered the front few rows which is not something I’ve experienced at a show before but it was pretty amusing.  Less Than Jake are one of those bands that you can never see too many times and seeing some of their newer songs played in and amongst their older stuff gave a slightly different perspective on them, which was great.

The penultimate act was Bad Religion, whose seventeenth studio album, Age Of Unreason, dropped a month ago.  We were treated to four songs from their latest offering (Lose Your Head, Chaos From Within, Do The Paranoid Style & My Sanity).  The rest of the set was a tour de force, stretching back to the very beginning (Fuck Armageddon…This Is Hell from 1982’s How Could Hell Be Any Worse?) with good representation from their entire catalogue.  Crowd pleasers like 21st Century Digital Boy, Sorrow, Stranger Than Fiction and Fuck You all kept the crowd moving as the rain continued to fall.  These guys continue to put out great music and impress live and it was heartening to see punks of all ages rocking out to these legends.

I sacrificed the end of Bad Religion’s set to catch a few songs from The Menzingers back on the Dickies stage.  An ill-advised, uphill sprint across the festival site left me lightheaded as I arrived halfway through Mid-Western States.  I just about caught my breath as they started Casey and I stuck around long enough to hear The Freaks and Lookers before heading back to the Punk In Drublic stage for headliners, NOFX.  I’ve been a fan of The Menzingers since 2010’s Chamberlain Waits and have seen them a few times playing club shows and they are always a good time live.

So back to the Punk In Drublic stage for NOFX and the rain finally stopped.  The guys came on stage and proceeded to spend what felt like five minutes chatting shit to each other and the crowd.  Just as the fans started to get restless, they let rip with Seeing Double At The Triple Rock and Six Years On Dope.  They played a set punctuated with long periods of conversation and shit-housery which at times elicited shouts of “Get on with it” from the crowd, but most should know by now that this is standard practise for Mike et al.  To be honest, I was thankful for the chance to catch my breath a lot of the time!  We were treated to Linoleum, Don’t Call Me White, The Brews and Perfect Government from the album from whence the stage took its name, along with Bob (from White Trash..), Kill All The White Man (from the Longest Line EP), Eat The Meek and Murder The Government (from So Long…).  I was really pleased they played I’m So Sorry Tony because Mr Sly should be honoured at every opportunity and they closed the set playing a cover of We’re Only Gonna Die by Bad Religion which was excellent.  NOFX have been through a lot of shit in their personal lives over the years but it’s nice to see them on stage, annoying each other, supporting each other and still fighting the good fight.

Previous Slam Dunk line-ups have always had a few bands that piqued my interested but the inclusion of the Punk In Drublic tour made it a no brainer, here’s hoping it become a permanent fixture moving forwards.

Photo Credits

The Bombpops – Jen Razavi

Aimee Interruptor, Joey Cape, Roger Lima, Greg Graffin – FuckinClairPhotos

NOFX – Jade Greenbrooke

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Slam Dunk 2019 Reveals Clash-Proof Stages

In a first for the UK punk / emo / metalcore all-dayer, Slam Dunk 2019 has announced that some stages will alternate their programming, becoming clash-proof. This year, neither the Jagermeister Stage or Impericon stage will clash, making sure fans of hardcore and metalcore will be able to catch both stage lineups throughout the day. In addition, The Dickies Stage and The Marshall Stage will not clash with each other either.

This means fans of the heavier end of the spectrum will be able to catch Atreyu, Glassjaw, Silverstein, Gallows, The Bronx and Cancer Bats, amongst others, without fear of missing out.  Similarly, fans of the more emo and indie spirited acts can see the likes of The Menzingers, Touche Amore, The Get Up Kids, Saves The Day, Plain White T’s, Real Friends, Seaway, Trophy Eyes and more without needing to choose between stages.

The one day event, with dates in the North and South of England, is rounded out with Fat Mike’s Punk in Drublic stage (NOFX, Bad Religion, Less Than Jake, Millencolin, Lag Wagon and more), Monster Energy stage (All Time Low, New Found Glory, Neck Deep, Boston Manor and more) along with 3 other stages showcasing up and coming and and acoustic artists.

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Album Review: NOFX “RIBBED – LIVE IN A DIVE”

Advertised on the Fat Wreck Chords website as “one of their top 3 live albums to date”, NOFX released their third live album last month.

A brief history: NOFX first released I Heard They Suck Live, a classic for sure, way back in 1995. In 2007, they released They’ve Actually Gotten Worse Live. This second one was unique because the band went out of their way not to repeat songs from the first live album, thereby leaving off classics “Bob”, “The ’Brews”, and “Linoleum”. But considering the band had released so much new material since 1995, this was an uncharacteristically classy move for the band. What was not classy was teasing the listener by playing the almighty Decline as an encore only to fade the recording out after just a couple minutes (pisses me off just thinking about it). The band did eventually release a live version of The Decline, though by itself and in DVD and vinyl format only.

In the early stages of this millennium, Fat Wreck Chords launched the Live In A Dive series, subsequently releasing seven volumes between 2001 and 2005 and featuring, among others, Lagwagon, Bracket, and the Subhumans. The Live In A Dive title was shed when NOFX released They’ve Actually Gotten Worse Live, though the Mad Caddies 2004 live album had also gone by a different title.

Then a bunch of years passed before the Live In A Dive series was revived with Ribbed – Live In A Dive. As the title suggests, the band plays songs only from their 1991 album, Ribbed. In fact, they play them all, and in order. The band even plays “Brain Constipation”, despite suggesting beforehand that the audience members take a break to go to the bathroom, and calling it “one of our worst songs ever”.

It has actually become commonplace for bands to perform albums in their entireties, and even releasing those concerts commercially; Less Than Jake did this for each of their first five albums. Ribbed – Live In a Dive is a first for NOFX, though.

Going back to “Brain Constipation”, this is a song that I’ve surely listened to dozens of times while listening to the Ribbed album or to NOFX on shuffle, and while it never stood out as a particularly strong song – I’m sure I didn’t even know what it was called before now – nor did it strike me as particularly awful. That’s one of the interesting things about NOFX in concert: they are so NOT rock stars. Their stage demeanor is casual and conversational and filled with self-criticism. I’ve always been fascinated when a band critiques its previous output, as NOFX often does before and after songs, whether panning “Brain Constipation”, or giving themselves passing grades on the final three songs, calling them “all pretty good”.

From their earliest days NOFX has been known for humor, though never really as a musically comedic act, like The Vandals kind of were, and maybe not intentionally, either – how seriously should we take Fat Mike as he sings about bathing on Wednesdays and Saturdays only, that they are “Shower Days”, and that he hates them? Sure, sometimes they cross the line, but in general Fat Mike, El Hefe, and Eric Melvin make me laugh.

Fat Mike also talks down “Food, Sex, and Ewe” as he laughingly reminisces of the days when he thought ska was cool because of Operation Ivy but suggests that he now thinks ska is stupid. Which is too bad because, while most of my favorite NOFX songs are of the fast and hardcore variety, one of the reasons I originally got into NOFX over twenty years ago was because they were often considered a ska-punk band. S&M Airlines has one ska song while Ribbed has two – I say “I Don’t Want You Around” counts – and they continued that practice throughout the decade. “Food, Sex, and Ewe” is not a bad song.

“I Don’t Want You Around” is a better song, though. Not to give too much away but there is a guest singer for this one due to Fat Mike’s inability to sing and play the song at the same time (the guest is Kody from Teenage Bottlerocket/The Lillingtons; ok, I gave away everything).

While the second NOFX live album avoided repeating material from the first, this third one makes no such promise, a good thing because otherwise it would be pretty short – “Moron Brothers”, “El Lay”, “Together on the Sand”, and “Nowhere” were all on I Heard They Suck Live; “Green Corn” was on They’ve Actually Gotten Worse Live; and (this only kind of counts) Ten Years of Fucking Up had live videos of the studio versions of “Shower Days” and “Gonoherpasyphilaids”. Teenage Me thought “Gonoherpasyphilaids” was hilarious. Thirty-Something Me still finds it amusing.

Speaking of things Teenage Me liked, how about the new boobs-jugs-balloons doo-wop tag at the end of “New Boobs”? They actually pull it off live! Comparing the songs “New Boobs”, about breast implants and cosmetic surgery, and “Malachi Crunch”, about racist skinheads, show the wide range of lyrical content NOFX can showcase throughout an album. Showing their range musically is showcased in “New Boobs” alone. Moments like the doo-wop tag seem to have been built for El Hefe. So perfect for him is this tag, as well as “Together On The Sand” and the doo-do-do-do-do-doo interlude in “Moron Brothers”, that it’s easy to forget that El Hefe didn’t actually join the band until after the original Ribbed was released. The transition from the acoustic pseudo-love song “Together On The Sand” into “Nowhere” is identical to that on the first live album, which was identical to the studio version. I’ve always loved the guitar lines in “Nowhere”.

Is “Cheese/Where’s My Slice” one song or two? The title suggests two but they’ve never been split into separate tracks. The sarcastic refrain “Where’s my slice? I want more than equal rights. I want everything for free” along with the line “You think I give a shit if you’re a socialist” from “Nowhere” serve as reminders that punk rock’s political views used to be more libertarian rather than the extreme left it generally promotes today (my quoting from “Nowhere”, by the way, is a perfect example of a writer taking something out of context. Feel free to look up the rest of the lyrics).

While there will always be those who violently disagree with me, I will fight to the death in defense of my claim that Ribbed was NOFX’s first good album. Brett Gurewitz produced it (note the Bad Religion-like harmonies in the middle of “Green Corn”), but he produced their first two albums as well, so it would seem the band simply got better. Ribbed is a solid-sounding record, but the quality of indie punk recordings has gone way up since 1991, so even though this is a live recording (made in 2012 though not released until 2018) the sound quality is superior to the original studio quality.

While the sound quality is better, the performance is sloppier, which is often the case for live recordings, though not always – NOFX’s performances of “You Drink, You Drive, You Spill” and “Beer Bong” on I Heard They Suck Live were both better and tighter than their respective studio versions. One excuse the guys, especially Fat Mike, allows themselves is that these songs are harder, apparently way harder than the First Ditch Effort material. Fat Mike begins the album by warning the audience that they’re “going to fuck up a fucking lot.” Before “Shower Days” he says, “everybody watch me; this is hard”. After “New Boobs”, Hefe and Melvin have a playoff to demonstrate how difficult the guitar lick is in the song they’d just played. I haven’t tried to play any of these songs, but I’ll take their word for it – these songs do sound more complicated than, say, “Six Years On Dope”.

Too much talking often prevents a live album from holding up over time; I like blink-182 but The Mark, Tom, and Travis Show is almost unlistenable now. The novelty wears off after four or five listens as the chitter-chatter turns more annoying than funny. I’ve never found that to be the case with NOFX. I Heard They Suck Live in particular still makes me laugh over two decades later. Their crude potty humor somehow comes off smarter than their peers, despite the onstage discussion that Fat Mike, at the time forty-six years-old, started doing drugs when he was thirty-two, so he’d only been doing drugs for twelve years (uhhhh…math much?). Other talking points include the differences between ska-punks and punk-punks, how to distinguish a high five versus a Sieg Heil, the pronunciation of the word “sabotage”, the consistency with which Jews have good ideas, and that the writers of Californication plagiarized a line from “Moron Brothers” for an episode.

NOFX still sounds good despite the drugs and middle-age. Seems like I haven’t heard a great live album since the demise of the original Live In A Dive series, which coincided roughly with the decline in popularity of punk rock. This one probably won’t become a classic the way I view I Heard They Suck Live, but any fan of the band is going to get a lot of enjoyment out of Live In a Dive – Ribbed.

4/5 stars

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7″ REVIEWS: NOFX – “HEPATITIS BATHTUB” and “OXY MORONIC”

I’m trying to keep emotion out of this. I saw on the Fat Wreck Chords website that NOFX was releasing a brand new 7″ called Hepatitis Bathtub featuring similar artwork to that of their book of the same name. The item description on the Fat Wreck Chords website gave no information other than the track listing, but since this was less than two months following the release of their best full-length studio album at least since 2006 I assumed that this new record consisted of First Ditch Effort rejects. Of course I’d recognized the title “Nothing But A Nightmare”, a Rudimentary Peni cover song that was performed on NOFX’s 1995 live album, but I’d thought the band must have re-recorded it, as they had laudably re-recorded “Hold It Back”, another 1980s track, a few years ago. Songs “Young Drunk and Stupid” and “Death of a Friend”, judged by their titles, seemed spot on with other First Ditch Effort song topics, as well as prominent themes in their collective autobiography.

But no, this record does not consist of new songs, or even of new recordings of old songs. Rather, these songs were recorded in 1987 “in a basement in Omaha”, before NOFX signed with Epitaph Records and long before El Hefe was a member of the band. To be fair, I did find a press release on the Fat Wreck Chords website from a few weeks prior to the release date that described the Hepatitis Bathtub EP as consisting of a “recently unearthed, crazy old NOFX recording to go along with the crazy old stories in the book.” So, while this information wasn’t, and still isn’t, in the item description on the Fat website, had I done a little more research I wouldn’t have felt as let down the first time I gave it a listen after receiving my pre-order in the mail.

For those yet to delve into the first chapter or two of NOFX’s career, be aware that Fat Mike and Company weren’t very good in the 1980s. Liberal Animation (1988), the band’s debut LP, may be hard to listen to but compared to the earlier stuff it’s pristine. The recording quality on Hepatitis is poor, but if we can look the other way for Operation Ivy, then we can forgive NOFX, too; it’s the songs that matter most. But severely lacking in NOFX’s early work are melodies. The band was stylistically more hardcore-punk back then, but on the occasion Fat Mike attempted a melody he too often paralleled the guitar riffs and bass lines, rather than having a distinct vocal melody with instrumental accompaniment. This is evident at times on each Hepatitis song, particularly “Too Mixed Up” and “Nothing But A Nightmare”, the latter of which is longer than I’d previously known it to be (I admit I’m not familiar with the original version); the band must not have thought the song was worth playing in full on I Heard They Suck Live (1995).

Now, I feel like I know kind of a lot about NOFX . Still, Maximum Rocknroll, a compilation of pre-Epitaph NOFX recordings, is one NOFX record I’ve had trouble spending much time with. In fact, I’m so unfamiliar with the compilation that upon seeing the track listing for Hepatitis Bathtub I didn’t recognize the titles “No Problems” and “Too Mixed Up” from Maximum Rocknroll. The versions are slightly different, but that would have gone unnoticed, too, had I not looked it up out of sheer curiosity. This “new” EP’s bright spot is “Young Drunk and Stupid”. It’s impossible to make out the lyrics, but the overall composition has by far the most depth, and would most benefit from a re-recording a la “Hold it Back”. All in all, this new release of old material is a disappointment.

Also released sporadically throughout the fall, and on various colored vinyl, was the Oxy Moronic 7” single, dubbed “Original Demos #3” by Fat Wreck Chords. With the album version on side A and a demo version of the same song on side B this record struck me as a cop-out money-grabbing gimmick, but I overpaid for it on eBay anyway.

And I’m glad I did! “Oxy Moronic” is one of the stronger songs on an album filled with strong songs, but to see where it came from is fascinating. The demo version bears the same title and the occasional lyric – although “Oxy Moron” is uttered repeatedly, not “Oxy Moronic” – but otherwise it sounds like a completely different song. While faster, the demo is simply not as clever melodically or lyrically as the final product, and, for what it’s worth, the production quality of a demo is never as good as the studio version, though this track still blows the Hepatitis Bathtub EP out of the water. If only someone could provide a detailed step-by-step description of how the First Ditch Effort version came to be. Maybe for their next book.

In summary: NOFX still good, Hepatitis Bathtub EP bad, Oxy Moronic 7” interesting.

 

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Album Review: Chixdiggit – “2012”

Chixdiggit, Canada’s premier pop punk band (Sum forty-wha?), and composers of classic love songs such as “I Wanna Hump You” and “Where’s Your Mom?” are back with “2012”, the longest Fat Wreck song since NOFX’s “The Decline” (I think?), which they happily put to shame clocking in at 25 minutes. An autobiography of the band’s 2012 tour, Chixdiggit up the ante with this one, covering the little details all while playing their simple brand of punk rock they’ve been known for over the last twenty years.

Through this release, a variety of topics are covered, all under the banner of silly punk rock in the same vein as the Ramones. The song/record/whatever starts off in Amsterdam, and travels to Edmonton, San Francisco, and more, finally ending in Victoria. The thing that’s so loveable about Chixdiggit is their ability to make everything about these places funny. Constant praise of abstract hot spots like Trader Joe’s, Nimrod Land, and an unnamed coffee place by Whole Foods paint a fun story for each place they went.

The humor is fairly juvenile, but that’s what’s so fun about it. For instance, at one spot of the song, a recounting of a conversation concerning Orangevale – where there’s only “hookers and hockey players” – sprints into a chorus of “What Position Does She Play?” regarding somebody’s mother. To top it off, that part ends with “We went to Walmart to buy some Stage Uniforms,” and continues on to the next section. And no autobiographical Fat Wreck tale could survive without a story of meeting Masked Intruder (“I’d only heard them on my personal computer.”).

While they primarily stick with their brand of Ramones-core, they do mess around a little bit with classic rock, cow punk, and there’s even a point where the music sounds kind of spooky (reflecting the lyrics). All in all though, Chixdiggit is still that silly, catchy pop punk band from up North, and a 25 minute song/release connected by a common theme of their 2012 tour is a great way for them to change it up while still retaining what makes them them.

Granted, a 25 minute song drags on a bit. And that’s why I’m giving this release ⅘ stars. Chixdiggit, however, did a good job at separating themselves from their previous career and put out a pretty kick ass release. If you haven’t checked it out, do it. Also, nice Rush tribute photo, boys.

4/5 Stars

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Album Review: NOFX – “First Ditch Effort”

Everyone has their own unique story of the first time they heard NOFX. For me, I heard “Dinosaurs will Die” on Purevolume.com at age 12. At first I didn’t quite get it, but it grew on me and a few months later I picked up War on Errorism at Fred Meyer of all places (this was sort of toward the middle-end of the ‘punk rock is commercially successful’ phase we witnessed in the mid-00’s [see: Vans Warped Tour]). WOE is probably in my top 10 or 15 favorite records of all time now, and over the years the band has continued to put out stand out material. So when I heard that Fat Mike (of all people) was going sober, I was curious how it would affect their music. I don’t do drugs, I don’t care about drugs, I drink way less than all of my friends – but it seemed like such a big part of their music and his personality that it couldn’t go unnoticed in the music, right?

Well, turns out that he wasn’t sober during the making of the album, but completed 85 days of sobriety around that time. Also, he’s doing the whole “moderation” thing nowadays. So with that said, a lot of the songs on the album deal with sobriety, but they also touch on other dark corners of Mike’s life. Of course musically NOFX is still NOFX. They still have their trademark mix of slop and pop and while some might worry that they’re “maturing”, don’t fear! The subject matter is more honest, but they’re still written like you would expect NOFX to write them. It’s still counter culture, still challenging, and still a punk rock album.

First Ditch Effort has some of the best songs NOFX have ever written, in my opinion. It’s notably catchy but also aggressive when it needs to be, keeping you on your toes most of the way through. “6 Years on Dope” is one of their most aggressive opening songs since “It’s My Job to Keep Punk Rock Elite.” Melvin’s yell on that song is better than ever (even better than on “The Separation of Church and Skate”, which is possibly my favorite NOFX song of all time) and is a clever ode to the drug abusing life Fat Mike (and his fellow band members) lived prior to this release. “Happy Father’s Day” begins with a sweet “Sadie”-esque riff, and quickly hits the 90’s skate punk territory that NOFX is so famous (or infamous) for. “Sid and Nancy” is a great piece in which Fat Mike theorizes about Nancy Spungen killing Sid Vicous instead of the other way around, similar to a Courtney Love-Kurt Cobain conspiracy theory. The first seven songs on the album are particularly catchy actually, whether it’s the NUFAN-ish “I Don’t Like Me Anymore” or “I’m a Transvest-lite”, which is a confessional tune about Fat Mike’s cross dressing that reminds me a lot of “Quart in Session.” I don’t have much to say about “I’m So Sorry Tony,” besides that they nailed the NUFAN-ish chord progression and the ending sound clip made me really sad.

Of course NOFX has always been known for their puns – is there a punnier band in punk rock? This usually works well for them, but they may have overdone it on “Oxy Moron”.

My three least favorite songs on the album were “Ditch Effort”, “Dead Beat Mom“, and “Generation Z”. “Ditch Effort” and “Dead Beat Mom” aren’t bad, they just didn’t really resonate with me. And as much as I really wanted  to like “Generation Z”, the spoken word ending just came off as a little overly cheesy for me.

All in all First Ditch Effort is definitely a stand out record, but what else would you expect from Mike, Smelly, Melvin, and Hefe. Well done guys, and hooray for punk rock in 2016!

4/5 Stars

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Album Review: NOFX – “Backstage Passport Soundtrack”

“We’re NOFX, screwing up since 1983.” Such is the opening lyric to the first song on NOFX’s Backstage Passport Soundtrack, a fast, in-your-face, melodic-hardcore tune, refreshingly typical of those NOFX has been pumping out for decades. It’s odd to hear NOFX say “screwing” in a song instead of “fucking,” but then you remember this is the soundtrack from a documentary series that aired on television, so NOFX was congenially doing the censor a favor by sparing him a “bleep.” Earlier in the band’s career, they refused to do the same thing with 1993’s “Please Play This Song on the Radio.” Is this a sign of their growing maturity? Probably not.

To the band’s credit, NOFX remains more active than many bands who haven’t yet reached the three-decade milestone. They’re not quite as prolific as they once were, though; after releasing five studio albums between 1991 and 1997, a new studio album has since been released once every three years – literally: 1997, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2009, and 2012. Barring some incredibly well-kept secret, that streak is coming to an end.

Still, since the turn of the century, they’ve filled the gaps in their discography with “other” releases such as b-sides/rarities albums, a live album, a “greatest hits” album, a slew of EPs, and countless 7-inch records. Following The War On Errorism (2003), NOFX started a 7-inch of the Month Club, in which members received twelve brand new NOFX 7-inch records over a year. Some of those songs went on the Wolves in Wolves Clothing full-length and the Never Trust a Hippy EP. Now, several more have been put on this Backstage Passport Soundtrack.

In the liner notes for Pump Up the Valuum, NOFX promised the inclusion of three songs on their next album. Only one of them actually ended up making it, though, while the others were part of the 7-inch club. One of the songs is “Insulted By Germans,” which makes its CD debut here, although the insults by the German were different, and better, on the vinyl version (most of the songs have been remixed).

Teenage Punching Bag will likely stick in listeners’ memories long after the album is over, with its cascading, brooding, and relentless bass line, Fat Mike’s minimalist yet disturbing lyrics, someone (Melvin?) screaming the lyrics in the background of the final verse, all of which make it unusually intense for a relatively slower punk song.

Most of the songs on Backstage Passport Soundtrack hadn’t been previously released on CD, but the CD-only crowd will recognize “Leaving Jesusland”, only this version is live. The performance and recording quality are decent, not great, but it segues into a live performance of The Greatest Country in the World, a brand new joke song that rips South Africa a new one (“You’ll probably get carjacked in South Africa…”).

Other highlights include “We’re Bros,” a short bro-mantic tune about being best friends; an acoustic version of “You Will Lost Faith,” featuring, in the closing seconds, some of Fat Mike’s all-time best screaming; “Your Hubcaps Cost More Than My Car,” a companion to Wolves in Wolves Clothing’s “The Man I Killed”; and “Fan Mail,” a cover of a Dickies song.

The album comes to a conclusion with a reprise of the first track, but before that there is Eric Melvin on lead vocals and accordion with “I, Melvin.” Songs with Melvin as the lead singer (“Cokie the Clown,” “Hardcore 84,” and “Pump Up the Valuum”) tend to get axed from their respective studio albums and instead get stuck on EPs. While this isn’t a typical studio album, one feels happy for Melvin that, this time, his voice made the cut.

Most of these songs were recorded ten years ago, while the band was still in its prime, and perhaps that is why Backstage Passport Soundtrack comes off a little better than some of the band’s other more recent releases. The album feels short, but, after double-checking, there are fifteen songs covering 33 minutes, so maybe it feels longer if you’re not already familiar with most of the songs. Personally, I’m left wanting the rest of the songs from the 7-inch of the month club. Still, a release by NOFX is better than no release at all, and this one’s pretty good.

4/5 Stars

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Album Review: Margate – ‘Beards In Paradise’

 

When you are in a punk band from the West Coast of America, your inspiration is usually somewhat different to that of your East Coast counterparts; you have the sun, sea, surf and suds as motivation, it’s less about the politics and more about the party! From just one look at the front cover of Margate’s fourth album Beards In Paradise, designed by prominent skateboard artist Jimbo Phillips, it’s pretty clear that it’s an easy going pop punk album! In the foreground is a bearded hula girl bobble-head adorning the front of a car’s dashboard and in the distance a beautiful and serene setting sun is going down over the deep blue surf. There may be exceptions to the difference in the East/West Coast punk vibes but California’s Margate are definitely not it!

Beards In Paradise, the band’s fourth album and second on NOFX member El Hefe’s Cyber Tracks label, is a 10 track, 22 minute affair and is almost unrelenting in its good time positivity. There are occasions when an album is released at the perfect time, and for this writer who lives in Scotland, a country that rarely witnesses what others would call summer, this album fairly brightened up the days with its infectious carefree content and laid back ethos!

After a very brief album intro, Beards In Paradise kicks off with ‘The Unsilent Majority’ and summer truly begins in earnest! Instantly the music takes you back to that mid-90s Epitaph/Fat Wreck sound that inspired so many resulting bands and is a fantastic start to the record. Over the years Margate’s sound has evolved into this catchy and happy go lucky brand of pop punk and it is all the better for it!

The tracks come at you thick and fast and next up is a cover song by fellow, and now defunct, Californian pop punkers Blue Collar Special called ‘Want It All’ and the track’s lyrics read like a Veruca Salt punk rock wish list. This is actually one of two covers on Beards In Paradise, the second being by another now defunct Californian punk band Madcap. The track ‘Keep Dancin”, like ‘Want It All’, is very similar to the original and seeing that the two original songs were so good,  it wouldn’t make much sense to tamper; if you don’t know these two bands already then go forth and discover.

‘I’m Your Destiny’ is another song that really showcases the band’s mid 90s Epi/Fat sound, a fast paced 37 second track that calls to mind No Use For A Name as much as anything! ‘Rock Out With Your Clock Out’ is the superbly named anti-work anthem; the art of clock watching as it ticks down to home time, something most can relate to! Another relatable track, to people in bands at least, is ‘Crowd Goes Mild’; a fun track that tips its cap to those less successful gigs where nobody turns up; although if Margate keep producing such catchy punk rock, I can’t see them having too many more shows like that. The album ends with ‘Never Known’, a pondering ballad about life and its duration and it’s really the only time on the album where Margate slow things down and get serious resulting in a nice musing finish to what was before such a happy record.

The only real downside is that Beards In Paradise is a little on the short side with only 9 actual songs on the album with two of those being covers; although it should be underlined that this is only a complaint due the songs that made it onto the record being of such a high standard, it would be nice to get a few more songs of original Margate goodness. Margate are getting better with each and every album and Beards In Paradise is a very fine record indeed, it even makes it seem sunny in Scotland, and that says a hell of a lot!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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DS Video Interview: Aaron “El Hefe” Abeyta (NOFX) and his wife Jen on starting their own label

This past weekend in Montebello, Quebec at Amnesia Rockfest, I bumped into Aaron Abeyta (aka “El Hefe”-NOFX) and his wife and business partner Jen Abeyta. The happy couple took some time to talk with me about their record label Cyber Tracks.

The Cyber Tracks venture began shortly after Aaron and Jen met up with the band Margate and from there a chemistry was created that was undeniable. The Abeytas decided to release Margate’s single “Rock n’ Roll Reserve feat. El Hefe” in March of 2012; ultimately giving birth to the label. Although the guys in Margate have been on a DIY kick for years, the band has lots of experience with major labels which proved to be more than helpful in assisting with the launch of Cyber Tracks. Jen’s brother Will has also played a role as webmaster and has lent his marketing abilities to their team.

“For artists by artists” is the Cyber-Tracks motto and they are true to these words. Unlike most labels out there Cyber Tracks runs a 50/50 operation, mutually sharing control with the artists. They also do not take proceeds from sales of band merchandise and the bands maintain control of their publishing rights as well. Cyber Tracks has embraced the new digital age of music and they are evolving with the times unlike many other labels that are having difficulty letting go of how things used to be. With recent signings from Ten Foot Pole and This Legend (feat ex-founding members of Yellowcard), Cyber-Tracks is a record label to pay attention to!

Check out our interview below!

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