Written by Michael Kundrath
“Modesty! / Is for sure something I lack / A freight train without a track / Only ends in tragedy / What the fuck is wrong with me”
30 years in the game, California’s snot-nosed, punk pioneers NOFX are rather amazingly still demonstrating an unflinching commitment to their art. Renowned for their high-energy, super-concise, often silly and rebellious, but also substantive and socially relevant punk songs, the band continues to tour the world and regularly release new music. Some would argue they’ve lost the spark that they possessed back in their heyday on albums like Punk In Drublic and Ribbed, but regardless of your position, NOFX’s 2012 release, Self Entitled (their 12th full-length LP!), proved that they’re the tightest/most polished they’ve ever sounded as a band, and that they still have a lot to say. This month, the band released Stoke Extinguisher, a pint-sized but surprisingly strong collection of punk anthems. And naturally, it comes courtesy of the band’s longtime home base, Fat Wreck Chords.
Essentially a mixtape of recent NOFX tunes, Stoke Extinguisher is six tracks long, clocks in around 13-minutes, and is one short punk rock ride. The EP features a brand new song (“Stoke Extinguisher”), a recently released cover song (“The Shortest Pier”), a demo version of a 2012 song (“I Believe In Goddess) and 3 re-mastered B-sides from the Self Entitled sessions (“My Stepdad’s a Cop and My Stepmom’s a Domme,” “Wore Out the Soles of My Party Boots” & “New Year’s Revolution”).
In classic NOFX form, the new EP is fun, upbeat, straight-to-the-point, and over before you can wrap your head around it. A few minutes into it and you’ll be recalling the sweaty summer days of your youth when you were big into Warped Tour, obsessed with Alternative Press Magazine, and bleaching your hair bright yellow because…f**k it, why not?
Most of the songs are hard-hitting, surprisingly tuneful and remarkably well performed. The title track, “Stoke Extinguisher,” kicks off the EP with high-adrenaline, balls-to-the-wall drums, huge punk riffs and signature angst-y/melodic, Fat Mike vocals. From there the band goes straight into an amped-up, full-band version of gone-too-soon, No Use For A Name, front man, Tony Sly’s ‘The Shortest Pier.” It’s fitting and just a really, really good song.
Other highlights include, “Wore Out the Soles of My Party Boots,” which has an awesome pop-punk swing. The song features killer drum fills, especially tasty guitar parts/solos and intriguing lyrics. Fat Mike’s lyrics address how he knows that if he wants to stay healthy and alive, he can’t be partying like he used to: “So call me shit-faced, Master of Disgrace, I don’t care cause my outer skin… / Is thick like crust, and a liver that’s rusted out, now I’m on a list.”
“I Believe In Goddess,” is a grittier demo version of the fiery, bass-driven, Self Entitled song, and “New Years Revolution,” the final track on the EP, in which Fat Mike addresses the clichéd, half-hearted, end-of-the-year New Year’s resolutions that people make year after year and calls for commitment to real, meaningful change that is needed in the world. Hence the name.
I only genuinely lose interest on track 4, the humorously titled, “My Stepdad’s a Cop and My Stepmom’s a Domme.” It’s difficult to rock out to lyrics like: “I don’t wanna know what happens / When my parents do something wrong / Oh my stepdad’s a cop and my / Stepmom’s a domme” & “They both wear uniforms / They both have shiny boots / They both use unnecessary force / One whips, one shoots.” Sure, it’s funny and it’s quintessential NOFX, but it’s too teenager-y for my almost 30 year old ears.
For a band that has endured decades of punk-rock wear and tear, NOFX sound remarkably united on Stoke Extinguisher. They aren’t doing anything ground breaking here, but that’s clearly not the band’s intention. They know the tried-and-true punk formula because they practically invented it — these dudes are pros. When it’s all said and done, this EP won’t revive my now mostly-dormant interest in the genre, but I’m pleasantly surprised how much I ended up liking it. And I have to admit, it’s pretty rad to hear NOFX sounding this good in 2013. Kudos, guys.