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Within Punk Zine review of NOFX's latest release "First Ditch Effort"
November 2, 2016
Photo: Joe Leonard
It was ’89, hanging out in my garage where a make shift ramp was constructed. A swirling shit hole of an attempt to keep our sanity from the reality of growing up in a small rural town when a single white cassette hit the half blown speakers. And that is where it began - from a friend who caught a NOFX show in quite literally the middle of fucking nowhere. And that is what most won’t write about the dedication and quite literally the effort of four guys huddled in a piece of shit van boldly going where no Cali band had gone before, hitting up every small town not even knowing if they would make enough to get to the next show “Truck Stop Blues”. That’s how it was back in the day. There was promotion, no instant word of mouth, shit you were lucky enough if your friend was cohesive enough to get the show detail blurted out or not. And this is where I think the latest full length “First Ditch Effort” comes into it all, exactly right back full circle to where it all began. Any one that has survived the eighties alive without missing a few teeth or some deep scars from the brutality of the scene or just plain being punk as fuck and running for your life from the jock mob chasing your shit will quickly realize that sound that we got from Nofx’s self titled 7 inch or Liberal Animation and will understand where this is going. The eighties was a decade of aggression and inner turmoil being suppressed by society for being indifferent or strange to those who didn’t understand and that quickly boiled to the surface into the sounds that came from Nofx’s foundation. There was always something that transpired along the way or things that simply were unbelievable that created the basis for one of the most Iconic punk act legends. It’s no shocking surprise everything you’ve seen and heard was right before your eyes. It even made one hell of a Best seller “NOFX’s Hepatitis Bathtub and other stories”. What evolved in the sound over the years from S& M Airlines which started the progression of what was to become with songs like “Five Feet Under” and lyrically “You Drink you drive you spill” is where we quickly could relate and became attached so well throughout the years. Lyrically Fat Mike touched on everything from politics, homophobia, sexuality, indifference's, drug use, and mocking religion in the usual funny satirical way.Then it all changed through a side project titled “Home Street Home”. Even though it wasn’t a NOFX production it feels that First Ditch Effort is a continuation of where that left off, not in the ideology of a street girl but in the close to heart reality of Mike’s life. And there was a lot going on in the past couple of years that shine through on this release including the loss of a close friend (Tony Sly) that would be reflective of “First Ditch Effort” as a well-crafted produced and assembled personal story line punk rock NOFX show tune.
It starts with “Six Years on Dope” a straight in your face fast rhythm and lyrical content of the past lifestyle from a conflicting personality view through the use of backing vocals with Melvin screaming the decisions that were made, the repercussions and the chorus being carried by Fat Mike on the “should have” choices. The second song “Happy Fathers Day” relates to the pressures of family and sometimes the abuse and negativity that we endure in a non functioning negative manner of just not plain being good enough. And this carries out in an early D.C Hardcore sound that is catchy and full of personal angst reflective of the earlier sounds. The story continues with “Sid and Nancy”. Which was an early release on Record Day with a special red splatter 7 inch. Now anyone that really knows Fat Mike can tell exactly what this lyrical content is which dwells in the personal split that Mike has gone through. In a metaphorical sense he relates himself to the iconic Sid “Make it look like an O.D”? Is this a reference to full control of everything? “Everybody knows it was Nancy who killed Sid”. California actually has that classic fast bass line and upbeat chord work with smooth drum rolls and also brings that show tune sound feel to it. Lyrically it’s about making decisions to change and struggling to keep away from old habits and drinking coffee and chain smoking cigarettes just don’t cut it.
Oxy Moronic is one of those tracks that is classic NOFX with political views around the crookedness of big medical controversial medicinal. Of course the story takes the reality turn with “I don’t like me anymore” Is a Boston type of street punk sound with fast upbeats and anthem choruses. A lyrical self-reflection of Mike finding himself and the realization of things he’s done. Of course there would be a tongue in cheek song that is reflective of his interests and acceptance among his friends. The reality of it’s okay and who the hell cares be free and true do what feels right. With I’m a Transvest- lite it comes into the song with that “Pump up the Valuum” sound with the rifts and mid tempo carry through focusing on the lyrical content.
The story heads into Ditch Effort an oldschool classic roots sound of earlier hardcore NOFX with Lyrical content about the realities of all those years catching up with backs being turned and no one caring when the shit hits the fan. The cold hard reality that mistakes may have been made but through it all decency and deep down “Hey I’m still the same Guy”.
Which leads right into what this whole review is about being a story line of Mikes past couple of years. “Dead Beat Mom” can only be reflective of his side of the story and what can we say about that with the intro with a cappella groove?
Of course NOFX wouldn’t be NOFX without some sax section and that comes into play along with some really interesting single 8 bit piano notes on “Bye Bye Biopsy Girl”. At this point of the storyline Mike comes to the reality of it’s not worth it anymore and touches on the content diving even more personal into his life of course in reference to what was leading up to and what was transpiring and that moment of time.
And of course this story doesn’t have a happy ending as is any true to life story,all our lives we face the trials and tribulations of life. Sometimes those consequences are devastating and remorseful. The true impact of not only facing the factual truth of losing someone close but realizing deep within you it could of have been yourself. Of course we are talking about “I’m So sorry Tony” which has the same piano score work similar to “Missing Child” which is impactful and brings full of sadness and emotion. And then leads into an acoustic chorus that Mike has done in his persona “Cokie The Clown” at last years Amnesia Rockfest kicking in to pay homage in N.U.F.A.N style with heart felt carried harmonic choir notes ending with Tony’s own words.
Of course this story ends with what is all relevant in the end with Generation Z a story about the end and what it’s all became and in the end it’s all about rising up above it all and keep faith in a metaphorical sense and be good to each other and respectful. The song end with a metaphorical poem about kings and queens and the morality of the kingdom and what is to become? Spoken by Fat Mike and Tony Slys daughters.
NOFX remains to bring something new with something old well into the thirteenth studio release and shows no signs of slowing down,well perhaps in a different way other than the usual antics that has inspired punk acts throughout the course of decades.
4/5 Solid punchy fast skatepunk/Hardcore in your face true to life lyrical content wearing it well on their hearts and sleeves, exceptional production and engineering and must have to add to your collection wither your a dedicated fan or hearing it for the first time.
CHECK OUT THE VIDEO HERE: https://youtu.be/lPXc2gmNg0s