Written by: PP on 07/05/2009 18:08:35

"Some people say this is our sixth best record yet", proclaimed Fat Mike at Groezrock a couple of weeks ago regarding "Coaster", the eleventh studio album by the legendary punk rockers NOFX. I've just now ranked their discography out of curiosity, and sure enough, it'd be around 6th or 7th place on my list as well. I know enough bands whose back catalog would translate that into a disaster, but luckily we all know how frighteningly consistent NOFX is with putting out music. So no need to worry, punk rockers, although I have to say I had my fair share of skepticism upon hearing the bass-heavy album opener "We Called It America". What's up with the whooa-whooa lyrics? Somehow those sound completely alien on a NOFX record in the midst of Fat Mike's snarly vocals. Then follows "The Quitter", this album's "Seeing Double At The Triple Rock", the instantly recognizable track with potential to become yet another NOFX classic in the future.

From here on, it's the usual NOFX show from start to finish. Like on all NOFX records, the instrumentals are ridiculously good for a punk rock band. Fat Mike's bass-leads are the highlights, but El Hefe/Eric Melvin guitar-combo does its best to not just fire up breakneck speed power chords but also technical mini-solos, somewhat of a trademark by the band. Basically the whole NOFX sandwich ingredients from the last decade or so are well represented here. As an added ingredient, there are plenty more passages for Eric Melvin to scream his off-tune vocals, perhaps the most on any of their albums. Fat Mike's anti-religion songs from recent years just keep on getting fiercer as well. He may not share the same intellectualism as Greg Graffin's (Bad Religion), but that doesn't make them any less accurate; "Blasphemy (The Victimless Crime)" starts things off mildly: "Horus similar to Mithra, Attis analogous to Krishna, Jesus, different name same story, all based on ancient Egyptian allegory", but once we reach the slow reggae-ska ballad "Best God In Show", you know Fat Mike means business: "I have no consideration / zero mutual respect / for billions who suffer from rational thought neglect [...] And I find it’s getting harder to hang out / with grown adults who actually believe / in Santa Clause and Noah’s Ark / and their god is the best".

But here's the catch of the record - there's a clear attempt to have a little less focus on breakneck speed skate punk and a little more of the good ol' stuff. In practice, that translates to a return to the silly-jokes and fun-filled reggae-ska rhythms of the mid 90s records, evident in tracks like "My Orphan Year" and "I Am An Alcholic". The prior could've been on "So Long & Thanks For All The Shoes" thanks to its quintessential mid 90s NOFX sound, and the latter features more of the much-missed trumpet by El Hefe as well as the bouncy ska-punk rhythms of tracks like "180 Degrees". But I'm not sure whether the band sounds as convincing in these type of tracks as they used to do in the 90s. Most people today view them as more of a serious political/anti-religion skatepunk band than the toilet-humor joke band, although I have to say "Creeping Out Sara" (a song about lesbian sex) is hilarious enough for me to rate it as one of the best songs on the record.

Still, can anyone actually proclaim that a bad NOFX album exists post-S&M Airlines? It'd be an extremely difficult case to argue in court, they're just one of the most consistent bands around. At the same time, however, it's possible to discover "Coaster" dividing the opinion of fans and critics across the web. Some are calling it a return to form since 1997's "So Long...", while I thought all three 21st century albums prior to "Coaster" were better overall. "Creeping Out Sara", "The Quitter" and "Eddie Bruce and Paul" (yes, it's about Iron Maiden) might all be better individually than any song from "Wolves..." (aside from maybe "Seeing Triple..."), but there's a whole number of anonymous tracks on this record as well, songs that just don't stick into your memory as well as "We Got Two Jealous Agains", "Franco Un American" or even "Dinosaurs Will Die". In some places the lyrics just aren't as stinging as before, and elsewhere you've got examples of NOFX on auto-pilot. That being said, "Coaster" still shits all over the boy bands claiming to be punk while actually playing pop, so to not call it a good album would be factually wrong. But lets rate this on the NOFX scale, in which case I'm going to have to go with a


Download: The Quitter, Best God In Show, Creeping Out Sara
For the fans of: Bad Religion, Lagwagon, The Vandals, Descendents
Listen: Myspace

Release date 28.04.2009
Fat Wreck Chords

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