Listen Up: Wednesday, May 17, 2006
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A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
NOFX

Wolves in Wolves’ Clothing (Fat Wreck Chords)

By Steve Steward

Fat Mike is a man of our times and hasn’t changed in 20 years — he likes to get wasted, he doesn’t like Jesus, and he loathes the dummy in the White House. But don’t take our word for it. Heed Wolves in Wolves’ Clothing, his and his band NOFX’s latest collection of snot-nosed skate-punk.

Wolves is largely a continuation of NOFX’s last album, 2003’s War on Errorism, which groused about American Idiots in a much sharper and funnier way than Green Day did. The new disc contains its fair share of grousing, too, but there’s also a lot of outrage, and it’s hotter and more specific than anything the band’s ever done, with Fat Mike’s contempt bearing down on everything like a big, cranky laser. On “USA-Holes,” as a distorted bass grumbles, Fat Mike compares living in America to “seeing a car crash, from inside the car.” And that’s only the beginning. Four songs later, his perspective shifts to the fictitious POV of his own execution, a sentence delivered for assassinating someone who not so unambiguously bears a resemblance to Dubya. On prior albums, a song like this would have been followed by some levity about hippies, turtles, or girls with no arms or legs, but not here. The next track is about a former punk who falls on a bomb in Iraq.

This is not to say Wolves is a bad record, but it’s not NOFX’s best. Sure, it’s got plenty of catchy harmonies, El Hefe’s hammy, hooky guitar solos, and a generous helping of rhythm guitarist Eric Melvin’s patented “Mel Yell.” And there are some fun parts, like on the opening and closing tracks, “60%” and “60% (Reprise),” in which Fat Mike reminds everyone that NOFX is still around and still getting paid to “play loaded and only for three months a year” (noting that some years, he and his mates simply “take off”). In “The Marxist Brothers,” Mike paints modern anarchy as something of a hobby, and “Insulted by Germans (Again)” is a hilarious generalization about foreigners. But the record’s grouchy, one-note anti-authority angst gradually becomes overbearing.

Then again, what can you expect from a punk band that’s been around longer than The Ramones? If you didn’t like NOFX before, Wolves won’t change your mind. At worst, it will make longtime fans wistful for the days of Punk in Drublic. But in spite of its oft-repetitive bile, Wolves in Wolves’ Clothing points out that the best punk bands don’t take themselves too seriously, and they never, ever, ever grow up.


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