I can sum up this record in three words: sounds like NOFX. It has elements of pop, hardcore, street punk, and yes, they even threw in some ska. There are some politically motivated lyrics,(Franco Un-American, Idiots are Taking Over) some stuff that's pure kitsch (She's Nubs, Whoops, I OD'd) and a few more "hey look at us, we're NOFX" songs along the lines of Theme From a NOFX Album (Mattersville, 13 stitches). It has clever cover art, that being the American flag with a charicature of good ol' Dubya made up to look like a clown. At 14 songs in around 30 minutes, it follows all the rules for a good punk rock album. There were highlights and a few low points; let's tackle the highlights first.
Fat Mike's lyrics are even more honest and inspired than ever on this record. Whether he's addresing his political views, big business, or just getting old, he delivers with an excellent blend of wit, truth, and sarcasm. A few times, he even sacrifices the rhyme scheme and meter of the song to make sure he gets in everything he wanted to say (check out the chorus of "Franco Un-American".) It's nice to see a band that actually gives a shit about the subject matter of their songs.
It's also nice to see, amongst all the politics and angst, that the guys have not lost their sense of humor. "She's Nubs" is hilarious, similar in many ways to "Monosyllabic Girl" from So Long and Thanks for All the Shoes. "Mattersville" also falls prominently into the humor category. In this song, Fat Mike fantasizes about a gated community for aging punks... it sounds lame, but once again NOFX successfuly makes a sub-par idea worth your while.
Finally, the music. The hardcore songs on this record are slightly edgier and less harmonious than on previous releases. There are a lot of new sounds here, like a saxophone intro on one of the ska tunes, an Ozzy-inspired synth part in the middle of "The Irrationality of Ratonality," as well as a few songs that rely on synthesizers to carry the melody, like "Franco Un-American" "Mattersville" and "Medio-core."
Now for the bad news.
A bad thing starts to happen to bands after they are together for so long. Be it laziness, lack of creativity, or general lack of interest, most bands tend to stop developing at some point and start releasing what is basically the same record over and over again. Think Aerosmith, and you'll know what I'm talking about. NOFX has fallen into a similar groove. Starting with Pump Up the Valuum, you can basically listen to the rest of the NOFX catalogue and it would be difficult to tell where one release ends and the next begins. I would dare say that NOFX has become sterile. Not that the music is bad; on the contrary, I quite enjoyed the record. However, I was never surprised with what came next.
While it's true that Mike's lyrics are coming more from the heart these days, it seems that the subject matter is getting a little played out. We all know that he hates the president, and the ways of the world, and other bands, and we're also well aware of the fact that he is, indeed, Fat Mike, and that his band is more successful than yours. Sometimes he sounds a little silly repeating himself ad nauseaum about the same things. After the launch of punkvoter.com, the hype in all the Fatwreck e-mails and newsleters, andthe slew of anti-government propaganda being issued from the Fat camp these days, I expected something a little less trite. I was looking for a full on, angry protest album, and what I got was half of a lighthearted of a NOFX album, half Fat Mike proving to the masses that his political lyrics don't stand up to those of Propagandhi, Good Riddance, or Anti-Flag.
Also, they started playing ska again. What up with that? Fucking hypocrites. :)
In all, a good record, definitely worth your $10. It comes with an enhanced CD and a poster, and if you pre-order it from Fat, you get entered into a drawing to win one of six extremely limited edition 7" records. The music is good, but not great like "Punk in Drublic" or "Valuum." Even without being an instant classic, it is definitely worth a listen to anyone who has ever enjoyed a NOFX record in the past.