It's a real shame that discussion of NOFX's nearly two decade recorded history has often been reduced to a referendum on Mike's Punk Voter project.
And despite the fact that I have and will continue to defend Mike's right to speak his mind as well as his laudable effort in mobilizing many bands and music
fans towards a lofty and sadly unattained goal - I guess he didn't hate Bush as much as the south hated gays and economics - NOFX predates Punk Voter by more years than many punk fans have been alive. So, while it might be a bit premature delivering a postmortem release for a band that is still breathing and touring, this greatest hits compilation may serve to remind people of why NOFX is a singular band deserving of far more than just a footnote in punk rock history.
While it's easy to forget these days when most people describe punk and hardcore in terms of emo and metal, a few short years ago when this site began, NOFX was the dominant influence on most bands claiming affiliation with the punk scene. A critic describing a band as NOFX-influenced was not just common, it was nearly ubiquitous. Their simple formula of fast guitars over even faster double time drumming was universally accepted as a staple of the genre. And it wasn't just Fat bands like Lag Wagon, Strung Out and No Use for a Name that were described in terms of NOFX, but bands on a variety of labels, from obscure underground bands, to more mainstream-friendly acts like Blink 182 and MxPx.
When talking about a greatest hits record like The Greatest Songs Ever Written (By Us), it's nearly impossible for the compilation to reflect each
NOFX fan's vision of their best works. For example, I would have preferred "The Death of John Smith" to "The Longest Line" from the
latter-titled EP, added the heartfelt "Perfect Government" from Punk in Drublic, and probably ensured the presence of "Please Play This Song On The Radio" from White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean. Still, most of the true classics are certainly present; the absolute perfection of "Linoleum," the singalong greatness of "Bob," and their best recent-era track "Separation of Church and Skate" with its memorable line: "When did punk rock become so safe?"
Some of the omissions are unfortunate certainly, and some are understandable, like the absence of the eighteen minute "The Decline" which
ranks as arguably the most mature, varied and straight up brilliant song that Mike has ever written. Some tracks from the
rarities compilation 45 Or 46 Songs That Weren't Good Enough‚?¶ should have made the cut, like "We Ain't Shit" over "Day to Daze." Still, there are few surprising omissions, when most are a question of personal taste. A band with dozens
of records, singles and EPs is bound to be imperfectly represented on a compilation like this, and under that circumstance, the product is surprisingly thorough, though thankfully omits their forgettably half-baked Liberal Animation.
But for those who are unfamiliar with NOFX, this retrospective should necessarily be followed with Punk in Drublic - one of the best punk records of the 90s - The Decline, a concept track that is actually worthy of its lengthy listening investment, White Trash‚?¶ for it's varied songwriting style and without par Minor Threat cover and of course, also deserving of mention is So Long and Thanks for All the Shoes which nearly approaches the greatness of Punk in Drublic and contains one track that could bring a tear to the eye of the most unromantic ("Falling in Love"). In the end, this record serves its purpose; it provides a strong if necessarily incomplete introduction to a band who along with Bad Religion and a handful of others helped define the Californian punk scene, and in that end it succeeds greatly.