Enthusiastic comic book readers are called "fanboys" by that industry. These aren't just readers, they're they type of people who will have discussions about story scenarios that wouldn't happen within the bounds of the ongoing story lines. They have the most pointless arguments, along the lines of "Spiderman couldn't beat Batman" and so fourth.
NOFX opens up playing one of Rancid's oldest songs, written when Tim and Matt were in Downfall. The track was originally recorded for "Let's Go" and is a great opener for the split. It sets up the formula these covers for the most part follow, preserving the signature guitar riffs from the songs and peppering them with the personalities of the covering band. Eric Melvin lends his great backup screams and El Hefe adds some humor with a Fat Albert impression on the "Hey Hey Hey" lines.
When BYO Records announced that the third volume of their scene-documenting split series would feature NOFX and Rancid, the readers of this site had almost the same type of conversation. The arguments came from all angles, Fat Wreck fans backing their champion, Hellcat devotees with equal furor from their side of the ring, jaded punks who had long abandoned both Epitaph bands as "too-mainstream" grumbled their disapproval, and those of us who were fans of both simply held our tongues and waited.
Any good comic writer will know that there are two ways to write a crossover. On one hand, since the confines of the normal story have been dropped anyways, there could simply be a poorly set up fight to pander to the fanboy's speculations. On the other hand, a smart writer will pull off something clever, write a good story, and throw the readers for the loop. In the case of this split, Fat Mike and Tim Armstrong did throw their fans for a loop and decided to cover each other's songs. That silenced many of the premature critics, since every song features the musicianship of one band combined with the song-writing skills of the other. While I would have loved to see the bands put some original material on here, their covers are pretty fun. Taking the project from that angle also removes a lot of the pressure from the bands. On the downside it makes this disc more of a novelty, but it also means you don't go into this looking for anything prolific. Here's how it breaks down, track by track:
NOFX - "I'm The One"
NOFX ‚?? "Olympia, WA"
A faithful representation of the song from Rancid's platinum "‚?¶And Out Come The Wolves." Fat Mike pronounces his bass lines more then usual, following Rancid's bass-forward song structure.
NOFX ‚?? "Tenderloin"
I was surprised they chose this song from "Let's Go" instead of others, but make it their own with the chorus. This is a great representation of all the little NOFXisms that are thrown into Rancid's songs.
NOFX ‚?? "Antennas"
The irony of Californian bands singing about their state plummeting into the ocean is great, and Fat Mike embraces this on his cover from Rancid's second self titled album. Paying tribute to BYO, he throws in a line from Youth Brigade's "Sink with Kalifornija."
NOFX ‚?? "Corazon De Oro"
I'm glad NOFX didn't shy away from the ska-heavy songs of "Life Wont Wait." This is a great cover since it redefines the track as a straight-ahead rocker in NOFX's style. In the slower opening lines, Fat Mike slurs his vocals in homage to Tim Armstrong's famous voice.
NOFX ‚?? "Radio"
At some point Fat Mike was quoted with saying he never felt the need to play another ska song again. However NOFX has taken this anthem from "Let's Go" and slowed it down to a dub rhythm with El Hefe covering the vocals. Before each chorus there is a slight pause where you'd expect NOFX to stop messing around and kick into high gear, but as Fat Mike playfully chants "Radio Radio Radio" you can almost see the smirk across his face
Rancid ‚?? "The Moron Brothers"
With some Matt Freeman bass magic and one of Tim's most passionate screams of "Lets' Go!" Rancid opens their half of the album with this song from "Ribbed." Tim purposely lowers his voice in this song, which catches you off guard at first, but when he deeply slurs lyrics like "Microscopic Bugs" it's just too good‚?¶
Rancid ‚?? "Stickin' In My Eye"
NOFX's opening to this song is fantastic as is and Matt' bass line makes it all the better. Lars Frederiksen sings this song from "White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean" backed by classic Rancid buzz-saw guitars. You really get the strength of backing vocals that Rancid can pull off with three vocalists in the chorus.
Rancid ‚?? "Bob"
Tim sings (in his normal tone of voice) in this song from "White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean." The song structure isn't really changed, but Tim's singing really makes this a great cover.
Rancid ‚?? "Don't Call Me White"
Matt's voice always catches me off guard at first but I love how Rancid doesn't shy away from letting him sing on this cover from the gold "Punk In Drublic." It's a fun rendition with passionate vocals, great bass lines and a bit of playful distortion at parts.
Rancid ‚?? "The Brews"
This should have been the easiest song for Rancid to cover, since it's so close to their style anyways. Maybe knowing this, they chose to instead speed up the sing along from "Punk In Drublic" as much as they could. Lars, Tim and Matt all sing the chorus, racing each other so they can barely get the Oi's in before moving on. On its own the track is fine, but knowing what it could have been makes it seem weaker then it really is.
Rancid ‚?? "Vanilla Sex"
There's something funny about Lars' passionate rendition of the "pornography song" from S&M Airlines. It's not as humorous as NOFX's playful cover of "Radio," but it's a great closer for the album.
Too many people expected this to an epic masterpiece that plays out their fanboy fantasies, but and that's not what the bands set out to make here. This is one of the most fun records I've heard in a while and will please fans of both bands. With Fat Mike writing the liner notes and Tim Armstrong putting the art together, this is an amazing document of the current punk scene.