If anyone remembers 1994, then they also remember the label Epitaph and its rise to fame behind a few major 90s punk staples, which included The Offspring, Bad Religion, Rancid and NOFX. NOFX’s release of Punk In Drublic failed to spawn airplay or music videos, yet still became the band’s best-selling album to date. Superseding the radio singles from Smash, which made The Offspring a household name during that decade, NOFX continued on with their acclaimed bassist, Fat Mike, as one of the few punk bands to remain popular while insisting that VH1 and MTV leave them be.
2009 brings us another punch to the cranium by NOFX titled Coaster, an album that kind of speaks for its drunken self. On the whole, this album is as solid as NOFX could really ever be. Their sound has never dramatically changed, save for one jazz experiment with Minor Threat and once or twice being faster than usual on record. Coaster even has a better closing song than The Offspring’s disappointing Splinter, as the kitschy punk track “One Million Coasters” explains different items used as coasters.
Lyrically, Coaster bounces from criticizing the decline of middle class on “We Called It America” to religious wordplay on “Blasphemy (The Victimless Crime)” (“blasphemy, blasphe-you/Jesus Christ, the blackest Jew”). Overall, there aren’t many faults to this work except some occasional juvenile storytelling. This brand of songwriting has often been NOFX’s bread and butter, an example being my personal favorite song, “Bob”.
Every tune on this record is tangible and accessible, with nothing left untouched. Each topic they introduce on Coaster gets fair dealings in air time, and the presentation is simultaneously raw and mildly polished. Take “Eddie, Bruce and Paul”, for instance. Other than the title sounding like a George Carlin bit, the song structure is classic, with treble and bass turned up and mids turned down, and there’s name dropping left and right for weighted sustenance. This latter quality adds a glaze of humor, which coats later songs “I Am An Alcoholic” and “Creeping Out Sara”.
Frankly, while some of the album’s lyrics are better, “Best God In Show” is a true gem of a song, and gets a message across that’s both plain and simple. The chorus is all out punchy, as Fat Mike sings: “I find it’s getting harder to hang out/with grown adults who actually believe/in Santa Claus and Noah’s ark…/and their God is the best.” Altogether, this track sums up the sarcastic tone of both the band in recent years and Coaster in general. Though slightly misplaced, “…Show” stands as a keystone side by side with “We Called It America” and other snide songs like “Suits And Ladders”. Once again, NOFX have trumped The Offspring with a “not-so-political” record that has more to say than the intended cultural mirroring that was Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace.
This is by no means a pinnacle like NOFX’s milestone Punk In Drublic, or my worn down copy of White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean, but damned if Coaster does not hold its own in the current mainstream of California punk.
“Creeping Out Sara”