I was a junior in high school the first time my uncle played NOFX for me. It was the song, “Idiots are Taking Over” from their ninth album The War on Errorism.
As if the name was not enough of a statement, the cover is an American flag with George Bush in full clown makeup. The cymbal clashing, short riffs and lyrics like, “tell me why and how are all the stupid people breeding?” was a breakthrough from the teeth-rotting bubblegum pop of my youth.
I soon fell down the infinite rabbit hole of political punk rock, embracing each profane lyric like a Gandhi quote.
It would seem after twelve full albums and loads of extended plays that lead singer and songwriter “Fat Mike” Burkett would be all out of ideas by now. To quote the band directly, “You’re Wrong.” Their newest album, First Ditch Effort, proves you cannot stop the political punk powerhouse that is NOFX.
Unlike past NOFX records where songs about lesbians and beer-guzzling dominate, First Ditch Effort includes more personal issues to the band members. Track one, “Six Years on Dope” is a flashback on the troubles’ of drummer Erik San- din, ex-heroin addict. A fast-paced rhythm with lyrics like,
“I was a child adult, a walking insult, every shot got more difficult,” cuts the emotional blow and makes it sound like the depressing tale of a quest for greatness.
A strong belief held by NOFX is that their image is not important to their success. For example, in past years Fat Mike has performed in leather skirts and pretty pink dresses pulled tight around his beer gut. We finally get answers in the song “I’m a Transvest-lite,” an autobiographical story of junior high boys experimenting with gender roles. The chorus proudly rings out, “I gotta confess, I like to cross-dress, I’ve been doing it since I was thirteen,” making this way different than most punk music. Easily my favorite song on the record, it is such a true narrative on how you can break out of the box you are put into in order to be yourself.
Although the band makes political statements all throughout the album, they are especially prevalent in the last track, “Generation Z.” Instead of giving a positive outlook on the future they will see, Fat Mike coos “Like an animal in slaughter, I hope that my daughters never know what it feels like to give up, to know the whole world is corrupt.” He features his daughters performing poems in the back, ending the album on a chilling note that will resonate with listeners — this world needs to change.
Although this is the most recent of their work, I certainly believe this is the album that first-time listeners should go to. First Ditch Effort’s blend of harmonies with great instrumentals as the band tells stories of struggle make it a great addition to anyone’s punk rock playlist.