I’ve always had a complex love affair with punk rock. Put simply, a pretty good majority of it is bad. This is true of many genres, but seems even moreso with punk, as the song structures and trappings naturally attract a lot of pale imitations. Like ska, its occasional partner in crime, the good stuff tends to come about in waves — often short bursts at that.
The early 90’s saw a notable resurgence of quality punk, and NOFX was front and center with a string of albums that culminated with 1994’s Punk in Drublic. While not their best album, it comes damn close, cramming seventeen short bursts of anger, energy, and comedy into NOFX’s usual mishmash of styles. It’s fierce, fearless, and a whole lot of fun.
The ska tinges remain from earlier albums, as does the snide sense of humor usually found in the best (and sometimes worst) of punk. It also wastes little times, with several songs clocking in under two minutes. The hilarious “Jeff Wears Birkenstocks” barely reaches the one-minute mark. The themes are familiar, with plenty of jabs at politicians and other powers-that-be. The best ones land squarely — a few come over as unfocused and petulant. And while the standard punk diatribes against racism make their point, even more noteworthy is “Don’t Call me White”, an angry missive at PC guilt. Coupled with a few good-natured pokes at themselves and the blistering “Lori Meyers”, NOFX made one of the last great punk albums before Blink-182 would set the genre back a decade.