If you have any interest in punk rock then you must have spent a vast amount of time with your head in the sand if you have no idea about NOFX and the band’s frontman/Fat Wreck head honcho, Fat Mike. The band has been fairly prolific in releasing music over almost 30 years and has maintained a high profile without ever reaching the levels achieved by bands like Green Day and the Offspring; something many view as a positive. Despite retaining a sense of humor, a love of alcohol and the occasional ridiculously themed song, in the past decade the band has grown up a bit in terms of the message it sends out through its music as well as appearing a bit more serious over a variety of events both national and global–a welcomed progression I think many would agree.
Following on from 2009’s decidedly average Coaster, Self Entitled comes out at a time when, for me anyway, the band’s significance is clearly on a downward trajectory. From seeing them in the early '90s playing to 40 or so people and doing so with gusto, humor and a gung ho attitude that was a joy to behold, to seeing them play to over 1,500 people about five years ago when the humor seemed forced and the set was disjointed at best, I find myself in a position where NOFX are in danger of being consigned to the “Just Another Band” category.
Opening with “72 Hookers,” it doesn’t take too long here to realize that this is NOFX’s cunning plan to dissuade those with a desire to inflict terror on the Western World in the name of Islam from carrying out their plans, which is done only in the hope of meeting with the fabled 72 virgins. Basically 100,000 hookers or one million whores to turn the heads of those intent on waging such are what are needed according to the band–simple! This track starts well with a very good long intro which builds nicely and once the lyrics kick in I’m at first mildly amused at the concept before being more than slightly put off by the idea of enlisting women (prostitutes/whores as described in the lyrics) to solve the problem. Yes, I know it’s supposed to be entertaining but it just gets on the wrong side of my funny bone and doesn’t make for an auspicious start.
The second offering, “I Believe in Goddess,” is a much better effort, being short, punchy and with a lyrical content that is not pushing itself to be anything other than mildly interesting and amusing. The recent single “Ronnie and Mags” is another let down in that it’s not funny, it’s not particularly relevant and it seems to be an idea that just seems superfluous in that surely there are more needy targets in today's fucked up world. For me the album finally kicks into gear with the fourth track, “She Didn’t Lose Her Baby,” a more serious tale and one that mirrors “My Orphan Year” off Coaster in that it creates a sense of melancholy, something that NOFX can actually do quite well. “Secret Society” could easily be a Bad Religion song and is a slight move away from the more frantic pace often set by NOFX, but it does constantly make me think that perhaps Graffin and Co could do it better. However, it is one of the better tracks on the album.
From there, “I, Fatty” isn’t too bad and “Cell Out” is just "mediocore" but neither really do anything for me; at least with “Down With The Ship” Fat Mike and his crew manage to pull their heads above water for almost two and a half minutes.
The poignancy that NOFX is capable of is once again demonstrated on “I’ve Got One Jealous Again, Again,” the unfortunate follow up to “We’ve Got Two Jealous Agains” off The War on Errorism. The original song dealt with the coming together of two record collections when Fat Mike met his wife whilst the new version deals with the divorce of the couple and the subsequent separation of that one collection. It is nuggets like these that help display a less brash side of the band which I find more appealing these days. However, they are few and far between on this album and I’ll no doubt create playlists including maybe five songs from Self Entitled. Despite the trademark NOFX sound remaining, there is the sense of decay here and what once seemed fresh and vibrant is now slightly stale and lackluster, with few high points to remark on. I like the style of music that NOFX play, and always have, but the quality of the content seems to be lacking and doesn’t match up with previous work. I had hoped to like this record much more than I do but unfortunately that’s not the case.
For me it’s official then: NOFX are just another band these days.