‘Self Entitled’ is a somewhat ironic moniker for NOFX to choose for their latest release. One of the longest standing and most prolific contributors to the modern punk rock cavalcade, the band turn 30 next year in their earliest incarnation, and whilst it’s a joy to see them still on the road and making music, it’s undeniable that NOFX are more often than not a band guilty of wearing out their formula. This comes after 11 full length studio albums and 26 EP releases. Can the sense of self entitlement that comes from being punk rock legends be sustained on consistently sub-par releases?
Following the mixed reactions to their previous few album releases, expectations weren’t too high for ‘Self Entitled’, and there has certainly been none of the buzz which you’d expect surrounding a new album from a band of their stature. As is so often the case when punk rockers grow old, that fire and spontaneous energy that made their music so special in the first place has been lacking, the cracks papered over by larger than life front man Fat Mike. All too often NOFX are happy to throw a shrug and a few jokes at a criticism of their music, but when the band are historically capable of writing some of the world’s best punk rock music, why should fans settle for anything less?
The album itself is a double-edged sword. Tracks like ‘I, Fatty’ are thoroughly average NOFX fare which – even as a fan of the band – are merely moments to be tolerated between superb efforts like ‘Cell Out’, complete with an unexpected synth line and a driving attitude that is conspicuous in its absence elsewhere on the record. This is what frustrates – there is just enough filler that whenever the band begin to build up some steam with a run of quality songs, your enjoyment is stopped abruptly by a bland slice of punk by-numbers. A prime example of this is ‘Down With The Ship’, although having said that this track does harbour an absolute face melter of a guitar solo that almost makes the first minute and a half worth wading through.
Interestingly, the album has a plethora of homages to contemporaries and punk rock legends, some international, some not. Traces of riffs and chord progressions used by The Clash, Sex Pistols, Dead Kennedys, Misfits, Rancid and Bad Religion all seem far more prevalent here than on other NOFX releases, and are used almost as reference points or foundations for the songs rather than subconscious influences. There’s still a trademark NOFX sound at play here and nothing new to shock fans, but there is an overall shift to the minor key – removing some of the fun and accessibility that some fans might be craving.
In terms of lyrical content, there are no huge surprises. Mike manages to keep his political end up on previously released ‘Ronnie & Mags’ and throws in the usual anecdotal, story-driven song like ‘She Didn’t Lose Her Baby’. The social commentary of ‘Secret Society’ would be more at home on a Bad Religion record, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as it’s one of the few tracks that succeeds in engaging lyrically on the record.
All that said, there are some tracks worth mentioning that you’ll definitely be revisiting – most notably on the Dead Kennedy’s throwdown of ‘I Believe In Goddess’, Fat Mike’s ode to the music industry yes-men ‘My Sycophant Others’ and the somewhat out of place and touchingly personal slow stomp of ‘I’ve Got One Jealous Again, Again’ which seems to be either loosely or directly based on the breakdown of his marriage to wife Erin in 2010.
Existing fans will definitely find some tracks to enjoy on ‘Self Entitled’ – and it’s by no means a bad record – but it definitely fails to start any kind of fire. At best, it adds a smattering of new crowd favourites to the live set, and ends up feeling like another by-the-book release from the band. Unlike at least 6 or 7 of the albums in NOFX’s discography, it’s probably not a collection you’ll be coming back to as a whole time and time again.