NOFX - The Decline
Fat Wreck Chords
NOFX have made something of a career out of acting offensively. The band's first
recordings, for instance, are some of the most abominably unlistenable garbage
you're ever likely to have the misfortune to put your ear to. The band's
penultimate recording featured, for cover art, paintings of a man performing
reach-arounds and oral sex on farm animals. At their live performances, the band
performs songs with titles like "Please Stop Fucking My Mom" and others which
aim to slander the quality of the "ska" musical form. In late 1995, the band
decided to record a song that celebrated the death of Grateful Dead singer Jerry
Garcia and then proceeded to advance the case of punkdom back 20 years by
getting the date wrong.
Now, in late 1999, the band may have even outdone their previous, highly
publicly offensive nadirs of good taste - they've recorded an 18 minute song!
I think the last time I heard an 18 minute song was on an album by the
early-nineties schlock rock band Extreme, a band so egregious that their mockery
was internationally renowned to bring a smile to one of the sternest faces in
human history; Kurt Cobain.
Of course, up until the time I was 16, I quite liked Extreme. At that time, I
also took quite a fondness to Guns n' Roses - a band NOFX has been known to
emulate before, principally in the recording and release of a LIVE ALBUM. "The
Decline" actually reminds me of more than a few Guns n' Roses songs - take
"Coma" off "Use Your Illusion I" for instance; as the band shifts from the calm
drumbeats, soft strumming and soothing backing vocals underlying the halcyonic
"One more prayer to keep us safe" vocal to distortion-laden, rage-fulled hectic
fury of "There's got to be a better place / Lost the battle, lost the war / Lost
the things worth fighting for" at around the 12 minute mark, one can almost hear
the echoings of the musical transition that is undertaken between the "It's
peaceful here and it's fine with me / Not like the world where I used to live /
I never really wanted to live" lyric and "Ya live your life like it's a coma" in
the song by NOFX' L.A. punk-rocking counterparts.
In so far as bands are more or less exclusively reliant upon
technically-astounding guitar solos and / or radical shifts in tempo to mantain
the listener's interest during the course of their epic composition,
similarities are bound to found with other super-10-minute-songs that have gone
blazed the trial before them. Thus, we observe the radical tempo shifts in the
NOFX song and the Guns n' Roses one (and probably in a few by Extreme too, if I
had the balls to dig that record out) - of course, we do not observe any
technically-astounding solos in the NOFX recording because (i) NOFX lacks such
talent and (ii) guitar solos are about the un-punkest thing around.
Before ascribing the similarities found between the NOFX and Guns n' Roses
recording totally to a combination of pure chance and the constraints placed
upon the structure of songs of extreme length by the needs of the listener, we
scan the lyric sheets of "The Decline" and "Coma." The first thing we notice on
the NOFX sheet, of course, is the opening line "Where are all these stupid
people from / And how did they get to be so dumb" - startingly appropriate for a
one-song CD priced at $11. After that, we notice that the band has adopted
creative ways of spelling such words as "grievance", "shilling" and "senseless."
Glancing through the "Coma" lyrics we notice the word "miricle."
Somewhere in the NOFX sheet is the "Save us" lyric pasted above a picture of a
young Fat Mike. Save them, indeed, for the decline of NOFX is afoot. Somebody
wake Tim and tell him we have a problem - the man is surely tossing and turning
in his grave. Fuck the kids! NOFX has a set a course to become the next Guns n'
. . . and about the CD? It is safe to say that if you have liked previous NOFX
material and perhaps even if you didn't, you'll warm to this recording. The
music is standard NOFX, but with perhaps a little more passion than the band
usually puts into their songs. The lyrics (sample: "The Christians love their
guns") are brilliant and seem to be a reaction to the relative inaction which
occured in the political slipstream of the Columbine killings. It's a great song
and hopefully it may even prove, in time, to be something of a, dare I say it,
coming of age for NOFX. But, in any event, for goodness sakes, don't buy "The
Decline." Point your browser to http://www.punkbands.com/nofx/mp3.html and
download the song for free. Ridiculous CD pricing practices must be fought!
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