Reviews NOFX First Ditch Effort


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
Leave a comment

6.8 / 10

6.8 / 10

Share this content
Related features

Interviews Talking 25 Years of Less Than Jake

Posted Feb. 17, 2017, 1:50 p.m.

I was sixteen years old the first time I saw Less Than Jake. The band was playing the Buffalo stop of The Warped Tour. The ...

More by NOFX


NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories

8.0 / 10 NOFX - NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories album cover
Book Review

NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories is a comprehensive autobiography from one of the world’s most prominent punk bands that worked its way up. New aficionados as well as die-hard ...


Self Entitled

7.0 / 10 NOFX - Self Entitled album cover

NOFX haven’t mixed it up a whole lot over the years. In twelve albums they’ve remained consistently inconsistent, with a few records that have risen above the rest. Generally, they ...



7.0 / 10 NOFX - Coaster album cover

Currently on album number twelve, NOFX have become content with a certain sound that seems to represent their careers. That, of course, would be straight-forward punk rock with political overtones ...

Related news

Shows Play badminton and hear "The Decline" in full at Punk In Drublic Fest

Posted June 9, 2019, 10:29 a.m.

Set in Portland, OR this year on July 12, the musical lineup and activities have been announced for Punk in Drublic Beer & Music Festival. The lineup will feature namesakes NOFX ...

Tours Warped Tour 25th Anniversary edition

Posted March 2, 2019, 2 p.m.

Last year was previously announced as the final year of the long-running Vans Warped Tour. It's now back in 2019 in a limited, 3 city format with more bands ...

Bands NOFX 7-inch of the month club

Posted Feb. 8, 2019, 10:34 p.m.

NOFX has announced a second run of the 7" of the Month Club. The subscription will include new material recorded with Bill Stevenson, that "may or may not land on ...



Looking for the SPB logo? You can download it in a range of styles and colours here:

Click anywhere outside this dialog to close it, or press escape.