NOFX: Punk in Drublic
I don’t think I heard this album until 1996 or 1997, but I very specifically remember where I was and what I was doing the first time I heard it. By that time, I had already heard plenty of punk rock, Bad Religion, Rancid, The Offspring, etc, but this seemed like an entirely new animal. NOFX used humor to get their point across, they weren’t terribly political (though they do have their moments), and the lead singer had a delivery method that was at once clean and abrasive. Plus, that’s a pretty awesome album title…
Ah, Linoleum. I was hooked on hearing this album by 40 seconds into the first track. Just the lyrics of the first verse were enough to leave me (no pun intended) floored by how good this song was. “Possession never meant anything to me…well, that’s not true I’ve got a bed and a guitar and a dog named Bubba who pisses on the floor/that’s right I’ve got a floor/so what, so what?” If I had to make an educated guess, I’d say that this song is about enjoying what you have in life, even if what you have isn’t much.
The second track that caught my ear is number 4, The Cause. Taken quite literally, this song is about doing what you want to do because you want to do it, even if people tell you it’s not worth it, even if people tell you that you’re wrong. For a 17 year old wanna-be punk rocker, and already having a strong sense of individuality, I took “doing it for the cause” as a sort of rallying cry and/or oath.
The Cause is immediately followed by Don’t Call Me White. Although I have strong feelings about this song, I’m still conflicted about the meaning. “I wasn’t brought here, I was born…I ain’t part of no conspiracy, I’m just your average Joe.” I mean, I don’t know what exactly my skin color is, but it’s not white…I try not to use that slang. On the other hand, the words mean more along the lines of not lumping one person into an entire ethnicity (not race, which is biological variation, whereas ethnicity is pertaining to familial heritage). I don’t know, maybe what bothers me about the delivery is the idea that 30 years after the end of Jim Crow laws, the idea that stereotypes are still a problem needed to be pointed out.
The Brews is another track which uses humor directly to get the point across. NOFX make fun of their own heritages overtly, they have an album titled White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean referring to each of their cultural backgrounds. The aforementioned Heebs use humor in The Brews, even throwing in several yiddish terms, to take the sting out of any perceived stereotypes. For a band that purports to be mostly about having a good time, short of hating on “W”, this is as overtly political as I’ve heard them.
Track 15 is titled Punk Guy, and I’m not sure, but it’s a track about the specific brand of punk rockers who feel that they’re the “most punk mother fuckers you ever did see”. Hell, they’re even more punk then me… The track does a good job referencing GG Allin, Ian MacKaye, Johnny Rotten and Charles Bronson, among others. Personally, those punks who scoff at people who go to shows without the requisite mohawks, wrist braces, thigh high Doc Marten’s etc are rarely worth the time. Several of the nicest, most highly educated people I’ve ever met are punk rockers through and through, and wouldn’t even pretend to look down on somebody who enjoys the same music but comes to shows in a button down shirt or dress slacks.
The final track on the album is called Scavenger Type, and is about a homeless busker trying to make enough money to buy a bottle to help keep him warm. Said bottle doesn’t do enough to stave off the dropping temperatures and he dies without anybody around to mark his passing. With just an acoustic guitar and vocals it is by far the most simple song on the album, but in very few lines serves as notice that there are people who die every day on the street with nobody to mark their passings either.
Instead of ending the album on a downer, however, the hidden track has the singer practicing the “he’s even more punk than me” line in several classic cartoon accents such as Boo Boo, Huckleberry Hound and Popeye. I’m not sure whether this hidden track is on the vinyl, but one of these days I intend to find out.
20 years after this album was released and the tracks I listed above haven’t lost their potency and my capacity to enjoy them has not in any way been diminished. Several NOFX albums have good songs, but this in many people’s minds, is their high water mark. 2012 saw their track “I’ve Got One Jealous Again, Again” be my favorite song of their year. 2013 saw a 30th anniversary box set, marking 30 years as a band, which makes NOFX’s first demo 30 years old this year. Even 30 years on, this band are still very well respected in the punk scene, having appeared on the Vans Warped Tour several times through the years.