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NOFX “Wolves in Wolves’ Clothing” Review

Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: , .

Wolves in Wolves’ Clothing is the album that NOFX needed to make at this point in the band’s career. The title itself serves as a hint as to what the music within is, the opinions thoughts and feelings of a blunt, aging punk band. The album’s starting point is hidden far below the surface of elite Liberalism and unabashed cynicism, Wolves in Wolves’ Clothing started twenty-some years ago as a group of young Californian punks started homage to their favorite bands by starting their own. With a line-up change, a flip-flop as to whether or not ska is really punk, dozens of shots at right wing conservatism, an album entitled The Greatest Songs Ever Written: By Us, and one or two social drinks along the way, the band now takes a look back at a career that most others could only dream about.

And it’s within such a context that allows the band to maintain its present state of self-righteousness, which to some extent it should. Punk has seen so much drama and self-degradation since the band started, it has seen so many ridiculously callous statements which ultimately chipped away at what punk once meant. Punk has seen its corporatization through Hot Topic (openly traded), the Tony Hawk media onslaught, and fourth, fifth and sixth generations of poorly bastardized music and values. And while some might see NOFX as having some strange part in this modern model, the band has survived it all as onlookers.

There is a two part song, “60%” which opens the album and “60% (reprise)” which closes the album, that gives a glimpse at where the band is currently at, both musically and personally. Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m finally starting to figure myself out, I don’t care what people say about me anymore, it’s like I’m finding out who I am”…? Well, if you have, most of the time you’re going to want to punch that person in the face for being so self-absorbed (unless its YOU that’s saying it, then its OK), but occasionally, that person is right. While “60%” is based on the band giving, well, 60% and still coming off as amusing, the revisited version strikes with typical NOFX irreverence.

“We’re the band with our own label, that’s money under the table, that’s answering to no one…” Making fun of themselves has never been an extreme point of tenderness for NOFX’s members, but in doing so it has left the band with a mixed opinion among many. Though the group started during punk’s heyday, it has never been given the same bountiful sense of influence that other “old” bands have. Even bands like the Dickies who have put out a series of downright bad albums in recent years get more recognition than NOFX due to a few good years way back when. Yes, NOFX releases on Fat Mike’s Fat Wreck Chord label, but, it’s still Fat Wreck Chords. It’s still a relatively small label in the grand scheme of things, but it is seen as a corporate entity due to its DIY success. But continues to move ahead.

It’s almost funny that Wolves In Wolves’ Clothing closes with a reprise as the album is in itself a restatement of older thoughts and a new look at older songs. “Benny Got Blowed Up” is a fresh, faster version of “Bob,” in which its lead role isn’t a drunk, but a druggie. “Instant Crassic” is a 35 second joke that touches back to many points of the band’s performances including some stage banter on the band’s 1995 live album I Heard They Sucked Live. “Cool and Unusual Punishment” could find its roots in the band’s S&M Airlines album, as the song is a trip through Asian dungeons, tongue firmly in cheek. “Getting High on the Down Low” could find itself on just about any album the band has released since White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean.

An interesting finale to the album is a “hidden tracks” which consists of roughly nine minutes of demo material. Much of it is acoustic, low-fi, unmastered, and really, really, rough; but all of it provides an exclamation point to an album that points its finger at others as much as self. Showing a strange, unnecessary tender side in some of the demo material is about the only thing the band could do that really comes as uncharted territory. And doing so is as much punk, if not more, than today’s Hot Topics and the Tony Hawks. Despite the album’s final sentiments, “I suppose that’s how we’ll go out, played out and way after our time,” punk icons of any sort, will not fall out of taste any time soon.