NOFX - The Decline (retro review) (Cover Artwork)


The Decline (retro review) (1999)

Fat Wreck Chords

How does one write about perfection? The perfect song, the perfect lyrics, the perfect timing… just perfection, in general. I found myself struggling with this review for that reason. Say what you will about Fat Mike and his band of miscreants, but in 1999 they put out what would become the greatest punk rock album of all-time, in this man’s opinion. A near 20 minute epic, observing the world as a whole, and its perpetuating decline into a prophesied destruction. Mike may be a drug addict, and may be a bit crass at times, but when he wants to, he makes pretty damn good music.

I’ll admit, I thought the album was a joke when I first heard about it. A 12” that is just one song. Why? In fact, back in 99, there were a lot of punk cliques where I grew up. You were a Blink Fan, an EpiFat kid, or an “I’m too good to listen to this crap that’s coming out right now” kid. I fell in the latter group, but I still bought the album. In fact, I still have the album in its shrink wrap. Don’t ask me why I never opened it, but something urged me to buy it when I saw it on the record store shelf, with its blatant “DO NOT PAY MORE THAN $7 FOR THIS RECORD” plastered on the cover. I think I paid $8.99, but who cares.

It was two years later, after I had grown out of my corporate music (yes I thought epifat was corporate) that I finally heard the song. I was on a road trip, and my buddy put it on the radio. I had no clue who the band was or what the song was. But that intro… oh it ripped. “Where do all the stupid people come…” resonated with me. Remember, by now we were in a Bush era, and 9/11 had probably just occurred. “Blame it on the greedocracy” was pouring through any of us that were against this stupid war that was being established by this new regime. Facism was at its peak (until our recent election), and as a young 20 something, I knew I had heard something so special that nothing would ever take its place.

The record plays like several different stories, all pointing at similar, yet very different problems with our society. “Don’t pull the trigger squeeze / That will ensure a kill / a kill is what you want / a kill is why we breathe” -- Those lyrics resonate today as our world is torn by constant killings that seem to be necessary fuel for those living in the machine of our society.

The record constantly changes from speedy straight-forward punk, ska inspired riffs that allow for the flow of the album to keep you enthralled. Then you hear about the man who got 2 years for a dime bag of weed, and ended up killing himself in prison of constant rape. A cause I am still fighting for today: Legalization of Marijuana (I don’t smoke but it being illegal is ridiculous) and better prison conditions for those incarcerated. The prophetic nature of each of these stories is uncanny. You can have your Nostradamus, I’ll take The Decline.

Unlike many political bands, the song doesn’t just capture the problems, but offers a solution. There are more of us than them, but we have to band together to fight. The song also proves that this is near impossible because of how convenient it is to just remain with the status quo; after all, life is pretty comfortable if you aren’t on the front line.

I could literally write Five Thousand words, or more, on this one song, but I was asked to keep this to 300 to 500 words, which I’m certain I’ve already passed.

I leave you with the following two paragraphs, both of which are just my opinion, but may affect you in some way:

Never shrug off a band because of its connections to a scene, label, or other bands. Give new music a chance, or you could be missing out on the greatest song/album/anything of your life. Give every band a chance, no matter how ridiculous they may seem on the outside.

For those who love bass lines (that’s my second favorite instrument, behind vocals), listen closely to everything Fat Mike has put out. Sure, some of his songs are absolutely stupid and ridiculous, but the man can play a bass. There is a part at about 10 or 11 minutes into the song, that if you are listening closely, changes the direction of the song, and allows for it to move, perfectly, into the soft “One more pill to kill the pain” section of this absolute masterpiece.

Alright, I lied, one more paragraph. While this song is no longer the longest punk song ever written (Chixdiggit did a 25 minute song just to say F.U. to Fat Mike and NOFX), this is by far the best song ever written. The meter changes, the lyrics, the instrumentation, though not expansive, is used to perfection, and my god, if you haven’t heard the orchetestral version, do yourself a favor. In 500 years, this will be the equivalent to Beethoven’s 5th Symphony or Canon in D Major.

Fellow members of /Club "We've Got Ours" / I'd like to introduce you to our host / He's got his, and I've got mine / Meet the decline / We are the queer / We are the whore / Ammunition /In the class war / We are worker / We love our queen / We sacrifice”

How do you not end with the lyrics that end perfection?