Published Oct 10, 2016If you read NOFX's autobiography from earlier this year, The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories, you know that many of the band's most beloved songs sprang from their indulgent and chaotic personal lives. So it's fitting that "Six Years on Dope," one of the most vital-sounding NOFX songs in a decade, sprang from drummer Erik "Smelly" Sandin's struggles with drug addiction. He even takes lead vocals on the track.
NOFX remain the kings of bratty California pop punk, but the band have been in somewhat of a holding pattern of late. Neither 2009's Coaster nor 2012's Self Entitled bore the sense of conviction or anarchic humour that made their previous efforts special, and a spate of reissues and the appearance of their aforementioned autobiography suggested there was little reason to expect the group to recover.
NOFX remain fantastic players, still know their way around a hook and have never encountered a joke too dumb or juvenile not to be turned into a song, but since growing a political consciousness around the mid-aughts, singer-bass player Fat Mike has felt it necessary to share his takes on political, social and cultural issues.
When it clicks, the band feel unstoppable; when it doesn't — and it hasn't for a while — the tracks feel like didactic screeds from an obnoxious internet troll. First Ditch Effort contains both, but thankfully anti-War on Drugs rant "Oxymoronic," the most NOFX song title ever deployed, is the only one that falls into the latter category. More often than not, the band stick to the personal, and these songs — like "I Don't Like Me Anymore" and the Tony Sly tribute "I'm So Sorry Tony" — are the ones that really stand out.
Even at their height, NOFX were an acquired taste, a band happy to bait detractors and generate controversy. That hasn't changed, but lately they've seemed happier occupying that space than making actual music. First Ditch Effort doesn't match NOFX's '90s peak, but it rights the ship somewhat, and goes a long way to re-establishing the group as worthy and relevant elder statesmen. (Fat Wreck Chords)