So this is how NOFX are going out, eh? It’s good that they’re able to retire on their own terms, but on prospect alone, it’s hardly with all guns blazing. Double Album constitutes the second part of last year’s Single Album, but in a way that’s not exactly flattering for itself. That’s not even in the same vein of the self-deprecation that’s coloured so much of NOFX’s work for decades; Fat Mike has literally said, verbatim, that the songs on this album aren’t as good as their predecessors. It’s very in character for punk’s premier sad clown, but also indicative of how damp the squib of NOFX’s final chapter is, when the album’s own creator is laying it out so blatantly.
Because yeah, he’s not wrong. This is a weaker album than the last, not just in lyrics and composition, but within the whole context of a ‘final album’, and how anything NOFX bring to the table in that regard feels so tossed-off. Maybe it’s unfair to impose that upon this album, when these songs were from the same session as the previous one and likely before any talk of retirement was in the air, but that’s the place in which they currently exist, and it can be difficult to divorce Double Album from that notion in the hope of it maybe working more. Besides, it’s not like there’s no finality whatsoever; Don’t Count On Me and Alcopollack might not explicitly be built that was, but there’s an air of closing the curtain and wrapping things up on them that prevails through anyway.
In all fairness, if you’re coming to a NOFX album for longform profundity, you’re frankly asking for disappointment. Still, it’s how uneven and fragmented Double Album is that prevents it from totally thriving, even on its own merits. That’s not all that new either, but it’s become tired and workmanlike at this stage, as NOFX rely on their own staid ‘humour’ that doesn’t add anything or feel in service to anything greater. Even on a track like Three Against Me, in which Fat Mike recounts the bullying and abuse he faced as a child at the hands of his family, it’s hard to tell whether a line like “It’s not called abuse, it’s called sibling rivalry” is intended as deflected coping, sneering derision or some deliberately edgy dismissal of it all. It’s placed in the same context as the usual self-takedown on My Favorite Enemy, and the nakedly goading jabs at Stephen Hawking of all people on Is It Too Soon If Time Is Relative?, so the latter can’t really by discounted.
It’s simply not all that funny or provoking anymore. Especially when the end is in sight, it feels all the more hackneyed in the way NOFX pull it off, to where it feels clear that these are effectively leftovers with how little of substance they bring. The album as a whole suffers in the same way, really only finding its feet through the frantic punk that NOFX have never deviated from, but still works fairly well for what it is. It at least masks how bunged-up Fat Mike’s sneering vocals are (guitarist Eric Melvin gets more work here vocally and sounds significantly better), and for a brisk album running just under half-an-hour, it gets the job done throughout.
Outside of some flirtations with dub on the back half of Don’t Count On Me leading into Johanna Constant Teen, Double Album is sonically exactly what you’d expect from NOFX. The pace is generally fast with some good bass presence and guitar tone, wrapped in a production job from Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore that’s always been emblematic of punk of this stripe. Sure, Punk Rock Cliché is a bit scratchy and underweight compared to most else (maybe the remnants of its original incarnation as a blink-182 song?), but otherwise, Double Album sounds fine enough for a band staunchly refusing to expand their boundaries, and go out in the way they always have. If that sounds backhanded, it kind of is, but the sentiment remains; there’s nothing about Double Album that wows or shocks, but NOFX are still fairly on-the-ball when it comes to pumping out this sound and making it work.
In that sense, at least Double Album isn’t a complete wash as a final run, but it’s also far from impressive on the same token. It’d feel like NOFX spinning their wheels if that wasn’t something they’d likely take as a compliment, as they throw together a belated second half of a project that doesn’t match up to the first, and has their legacy ultimately taper off instead of leaving a considerable mark. And while that’s completely in character, that doesn’t dismiss how unimpactful so much of this is, or how NOFX struggle to pull much together with what they’ve got. Granted, Fat Mike’s own words can likely soften the blow of that—it goes without saying that his initial pull quote is correct—but trying to excuse your own shoddier product is hardly the workaround you might believe it to be. And when this will likely be NOFX’s final ever note, the disappointment is exacerbated so much further.
For fans of: Pennywise, Bad Religion, The Vandals
‘Double Record’ by NOFX is released on 2nd December on Fat Wreck Chords.
Words by Luke Nuttall