"This next song is for all the Christians, Jewish people, Muslims and Buddhists out there because you're all f***ed. And if you do believe in God, you're wrong." NOFX vocalist/ bassist Fat Mike has been accused of a lot of things, but never of being ambiguous with his opinions.
Irreverent pop-punkers since 1983, NOFX released They've Actually Gotten Worse Live in November of '07. It was their second live album and clocks in at 59 drunken minutes of shameless vigor. Recorded during three nights in San Francisco, Fat Mike and crew play fast-paced California punk, equate Jerry Garcia to Adolf Hitler, rip on similar sounding major label punkers Blink-182, all the while blaspheming Christendom and getting obliterated on booze. For all the indolence, TAGWL! is a snapshot of a legendary punk act playing some legendary songs. A hint for the easily offended: They are trying to rub you the wrong way.
With two recent releases, NOFX: Backstage Passport, a DVD of a world tour to out-of-the-way destinations and Coaster, their 11th studio album, 2009 is shaping up to be a busy year for NOFX. With George W. Bush out of office, 2007's TAGWL! just might be the last chance to hear the band disparage one of their favorite subjects of the last eight years.
With a prolific song book, TAGWL! features a smattering of signature songs taken from years of studio albums. Classics like "The Longest Line" and "Scavenger Type" carry the fervor that only a live performance can really capture, while tracks like "Eat the Meek" and "We March to the Beat of an Indifferent Drum" add a ska flavor to the show and demonstrate the versatility of the band. The opening track, "Glass War," offers a glimpse back to the hardcore punk the band performed in their early days. At times, such as the opening of "Franco Un-American," it's obvious that NOFX have had a few too many drinks to keep the timing together. Other classic songs, such as "Murder the Government," written a decade ago, have updated lyrics in signature NOFX subtlety: "I wanna see Dick Cheney have a heart attack / I wanna see Jen and Barbara go to Iraq." Matt Hensley from Flogging Molly even makes a guest appearance on accordion on "I, Melvin." Solo instrument classics have been adapted for a full band performance, such as "Whoops I OD'd" and "You're Wrong." While not as compelling as the studio versions, these adaptations show the insightfulness of the band to discern what songs sound better with a minimalistic approach in the studio and what sounds better played live with the whole band.
TAGWL! goes a long way in capturing the cathartic rapture of a punk show. To offset the occasional sloppiness of the performance, the sound production is solid, even more so than in some NOFX studio releases. Furthermore, the banter between Fat Mike and guitarist Eric Melvin adds to the vibe of being in the crowd. For a band that has established a legacy without ever signing to a major label or actively promoting their music, NOFX is a mature alternative for those who grew up on pop-punk--mature being a relative term, of course. You won't find Blink-182-esque songs about relationships and high school, but you will find plenty about drug issues, global issues, political issues and animal-rights issues. NOFX is first and foremost a punk band, and, albeit innovative, they put on no pretenses about being anything besides a punk band.