Reviews NOFX First Ditch Effort

NOFX

First Ditch Effort

It’s probably been a decade (maybe two) since anyone reviewed a NOFX record without starting out by talking about “knowing what to expect.” The band has their sound down pat and I’ll spare them the skatepunk adjectives except to say that new LP First Ditch Effort doesn’t change it up. The only shift here, if it is one, is that this record lacks ska or polka-punk songs. It delivers 13 songs of melodic punk in the vein that the band has mastered over more than a quarter-century.

Each new NOFX record these days comes with a story: a recurring theme that dominates the songwriting and connects the musical entity with the era. First Ditch Effort is the story of lead vocalist Fat Mike’s going clean. Half the songs on the album tell stories of turning one’s life around and quitting drunks.

Good for him, and it’s a good for the tunes: recent history NOFX is at its best when there’s a personal tone to the lyrics. This time, though, the effect is hit and miss. The opener “Six Years on Dope” starts the record with promise in a 90-second crash of melodic singalong hardcore that’s both personal and circle pit friendly. Unfortunately it’s a rollercoaster the rest of the way. Other going clean songs like “California Drought,” “Oxy Moronic,” and “It Ain’t Lonely at the Bottom” are personal and filled with nice melodies and memorable lyricism that are unique to Fat Mike’s writing style. The same goes for “I’m a Transvest-lite,” which isn’t about drugs, but cross dressing. The late Tony Sly’s stamp is on the record in song “I’m So Sorry Tony” and again “Generation Z.”

The thing about NOFX is they’re not afraid of the joke song. The problem with that template is you live or die by how funny it is. Each record has a couple “skip songs” where the punch line falls flat. Here,” Sid and Nancy” and “Dead Beat Mom” fall into this category. Meanwhile, the big coda “Generation Z” falls flat. It has some nice emotional crescendo and even surprisingly good vocals sung by Fat Mike’s daughter, but – and I’m sure the irony isn’t lost on the band either – a song complaining about cynicism is just too much for me to stomach. It aims for an apocalyptic tone that requires a conscious leap beyond the “so you’re complaining about people complaining” and it can’t pull it off. Ending on “I’m So Sorry Tony” would have been more powerful, as it connects Fat Mike’s personal demons that define this record, while also being a touching tribute to a lost friend.

There are a couple standout tracks on First Ditch Effort but it feels incohesive, with too many songs that just don’t connect. Comparing a record to a band’s older work is sort of a pointless exercise, but the band has released a number of better albums. Fans will appreciate something new, but they aren’t going to be raving about this one and telling the kids they need to check this one out to see what NOFX is all about.

6.8 / 10Loren
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6.8 / 10

6.8 / 10

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