JAM: NOFX’s “Self Entitled”

by Mark Jacobo

Punk rock veterans NOFX have released their twelfth studio album Self Entitled last Tuesday, September 11th, and, having been an avid fan in both junior high and high school, I was eager to give it a listen. The last NOFX album I had purchased was Wolves in Wolves Clothing, their tenth studio album, which was released in 2006. Overall, I thought it was a fairly decent album (with memorable riffs and thought provoking lyrics), and having heard Self Entitled, it was probably their last decent album.

Self Entitled is a half hour album consisting of guitar riffs, repetitive drumming, and flat vocals that are reminiscent of earlier albums (with the exception of the latter).

The opening track “72 Hookers” is a satirically written song about suicide bombers who are promised 72 virgins in the afterlife. The first verse implies that Muslims “don’t want a coup”, but only “want their 72”. Bassist, singer, and primary songwriter Michael Burkett, often referred to as Fat Mike, is known for his atheism-inspired lyrics, which probably fueled this specific track, along with current events in the Middle East. The content of the song seems typical for NOFX, but it’s not executed in a well-sought manner. The track opens up with palm-muted triplets on the guitar, as well as drums (which is heard on their past several albums) and builds up for about a minute. Unfortunately, it doesn’t build up to anything worth listening.

“I Believe in Goddess”, the second track, opens with an unimpressive bassline for four measures, then the guitar follows the bass, and once the song starts to pick up we hear a riff that is somewhat similar to “The Separation of Church and Skate”, which is off NOFX’s 2003 album The War on Errorism (but is not as good a song). Fat Mike’s singing isn’t too great in this song, and the sole aspect of this track that stuck with me was the line “I don’t want an afterlife/I want to transcend”.

The opening to the track “Secret Society” sounds like the beginning to “Leaving Jesusland”, which is off Wolves in Wolves Clothing. I noticed the similarity the instant the song started playing, and I had not heard any tracks off of Wolves for over five years. There’s something NOFX does often in their songs, which is to have guitarist Eric Melvin do his trademark “Mel Yell”—that is, yelling a lyric in his distinctive voice for emphasis. It was cool on earlier albums, but by now it has become nothing special, and annoying in the sense that we’ve already heard it many times before.

The song “Cell Out” is a track I had an issue with. It’s about the protagonist (possibly Fat Mike) meeting a girl who calls him a poser and a sell out because he isn’t the same punk rocker he was earlier in his career. This isn’t surprising, as Fat Mike is five years shy of fifty years old. It brings up the stigma of what is punk rock and what isn’t, a stigma enforced by arrogant punk rockers who would gladly wear their patched and studded vests to their graves. In regards to the song, the lyrics and vocals are bland, and the track seems to drag on forever, despite it being only 2:02 long.

There are, however, a couple of good tracks off the album, one of them being “Ronnie and Mags”, a politically fueled song, which makes references to events such as the Iranian Hostage Crisis of 1979. The chorus, however, is what stands out the most in the song.

The other good track is “I’ve Got One Jealous Again, Again”, the title of which is somewhat of an inside between NOFX and fans who are familiar with their earlier works. The lyrics refer to punk rock bands and albums such as Black Flag and The Misfits Coffin Set, but the absolute best part of the song is the guitar riff, which I found to be very impressive and almost hypnotic.

Overall, NOFX’s Self Entitled isn’t an album I would highly recommend. Instead of trying something new, NOFX have churned out repetitive guitar riffs and techniques that can be found on earlier, more well received albums. To be fair, though, it is hard for a punk rock band to “try something new” and still be considered punk rock. If you’re a fan then give the album a listen and decide for yourself, but I would suggest sticking to the classics, like Punk in Drublic and So Long and Thanks for all the Shoes.