Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 13/3
First Ditch Effort
Written by: PP on 14/12/2016 23:43:14
The thirteenth NOFX album "First Ditch Effort" sees the punk rock veterans come full circle with their 90s material. After spending a decade playing ultra tight skate punk with technical flair and political flavour, the past couple of records have suggested a return to the looser and more laid back expression might be in the books. "Coaster", for instance, was like night and day to the ripping riffage of "Wolves In Wolves' Clothing", and while "Self Entitled" once again toyed with skate punk and politics, "First Ditch Effort" is finds itself somewhere in between "Heavy Petting Zoo" and "Pump Up The Valuum" stylistically.
In practice, it's a less polished and slower record. The focus is on clever musicianship rather than raw technique and instrumental talent - think signature 90s NOFX style bass licks and guitar lines that on more than one occasion recall "Linoleum" rather than "Seeing Double at the Triple Rock". It's a refreshing variation of the soundscape that has always been based on solid foundations but was starting to be in a need of change to avoid sounding repetitive. Sometimes reverting to your classic material is the best way to evolve after a long time apart, and "First Ditch Effort" is a brilliant example of just that.
But really, there's something for NOFX fans both new and old here. "Happy Father's Day" is a shredder with tearing guitars in line with the best "The War On Errorism" material. At the same time, "Sid And Nancy" echoes "Pump Up The Valuum" by perfectly bridging the band's 90s and 2000s eras together. "I Don't Think I Like Me Anymore" is a disturbingly honest, self-reflection on Fat Mike's offensive behaviour over the years, wallowing in self-disgust and delivered with a soundscape that would've fitted naturally on "Punk In Drublic", whilst "I'm A Transvest-lite" brings out the weird "Heavy Petting Zoo" vibes. "Ditch Effort" then showcases the angry, driven NOFX we last heard on "The War On Errorism" where Eric Melvin provides his background shouting exactly as you remember it from the old days. Speaking of which, the hardcore driven "Six Years On Dope" takes us all the way back to 1991's "Ribbed" and maybe even prior to that record.
In other words, "First Ditch Effort" essentially takes us through the entirety of NOFX's repertoire, minus the ska/reggae driven material like "Reeko" or "180 Degrees" - although "Bye Bye Biopsy Girl" comes close to the latter style. So then the question remains, is it any good? Truth is, NOFX fans have everything they could possibly want on this record - and it's infectiously catchy.
Sure, "Oxy Moronic" is, err, moronic in its lyrical content playing on various drug names, but the overall sociopolitical critique is accurate and the melody line is awesome. The Tony Sly memorial track "I'm So Sorry Tony" is sure to raise chills on any NUFAN fan with its final "from coast to coast, let's raise our drinks and give a toast to Tony Sly" ending. And what about the five-minute closing piece "Generation Z"? It's the most ambitious song written by NOFX since "The Decline", easily. Featuring Foo Fighters' Chris Shiflett on guitar, Darius Koski (Swingin' Utters) on viola, Fat Mike's daughter Darla Burkett on backup vocals together with Tony Sly's daughter Fiona Sly, the song morphs from a signature NOFX style skate punk spiced sociopolitical analysis into a chilling poem about the state of humanity with the two daughters contrasting the spoken-word section with child-like singing and screamed backing vocals. A fantastic piece that's definitely a grower.
In the end, "First Ditch Effort" delivers the same, highly consistent punk rock cocktail as NOFX have been known for throughout their career. Having forged their own path with a unique style for three decades, sometimes tracing a few steps back and reminiscing about the greatest parts isn't a bad thing. On the contrary.
Download: I Don't Like Me Anymore, Oxy Moronic, California Drought, I'm A Transvest-lite, Generation Z
For the fans of: Bad Religion, Lagwagon, Descendents
Release date 07.10.2016
Fat Wreck Chords