One of the brisk refreshments in the overall letdown of the music industry cocktail party is the band that maintains a sound. At last, it isn’t the 2002 boy band that once sounded like sexpots who now have electronic moves like Jagger. Instead, it is the four goof-off, punk kids from Los Angeles who have developed and crafted an impenetrable musical direction.
It is they who have sustained a grit that, when honed, not pigeonholed, has led to more than two decades of longevity. NOFX and its twelfth studio album, Self/Entitled, is that ice-cold water in the tub of sticky, tacky musical mixers. They manage to refresh with laughs, with headbangers, with chills and without the help of El Hefe’s trumpet.
Relentless palm-mutes and fast, hooky guitar riffs are embedded in “72 Hookers,” a one minute-long intro. Building to what could be a patriotic war anthem, the opener gives its listeners, “How many million men have been killed in foreign wars? We need to reinstate the draft and list a million whores.” Focusing on the musical integrity of the song proves difficult when the storytelling is distractingly brilliant. It’s hard to notice the strategically placed 7-chord when the line “Ship the Girls Gone Wild to Afghanistan - they’ll gladly blow the Sheiks,” enters in.
Irony and lyrical distraction temporarily sit outside the studio doorway for “I Believe in Goddess.” The violent speed of the opening bass riff is waiting for a lyrical statement - something along the lines of, “I don’t believe infinity; I think there’s an end. I don’t want an afterlife, I want to transcend.” This track among others lasts a speedy 1:34 which could stand to be stretched out; yet, for moshers’ sake, perhaps the under-three minute mark is necessary.
“She Didn’t Lose Her Baby” has one of the best stories on the album. The complexity of the lyrical and instrumental soundscape makes it more overbearing than any other track. It, like it’s follower, “Secret Society,” forces the audience to use a keen, brain-functioning ear to understand where the band is going with the track. While the following four tracks don’t take any outlandish musical or lyrical turns, they implement what NOFX knows works. They never let the audience question which band they are listening to - they give you heart-racingly fast; they give you off the wall poetic; they give you shake-your-head funny and sing-along. Sometimes arrhythmic, but always cohesive.