Read Hard’s Classic Pop Punk Picks # 13: NOFX- Punk in Drublic

Posted: September 19, 2014 in Read Hard's Classic Pop Punk Picks

The last pop punk pick was an unintentional 10th year anniversary pick. This one is an intentional one, an album that has always been there in my life: NOFX’s Punk in Drublic. I can still remember the first time I heard NOFX, it was eleven years ago in, in 2003. I had just been swimming and was in the car listening to a girl named “punk rock princess” picking her favorite songs on the radio. That day changed me; I would later go listen to the war on errorism at the record store and I liked 4-5 of the songs and that made me get their “Re-gaining unconsciousness” EP. It actually took me a year after that to get Pump up the Valuum and their compilation The Greatest Songs Ever Written (By Us). I got Pump up the Valuum along with other epitaph releases at a record shop called Avalanche in Edinburgh. This was the same trip that I decided at the T.G.I Fridays in Princes Street that I was an anarchist, and the queen was in town so I wanted to go and sing Sex pistols songs to her even if I wasn’t too keen on the pistols at the time. But a nervous foreigner as I was I couldn’t even tell a cab driver that the queen was a person just like everyone else and that she should get no special treatment. Maybe my silence was for the best, I wouldn’t want to raise a fuss. PUNX! My favorite NOFX albums are Heavy Petting Zoo because of its experimental, melodic and lyrical style and Ribbed because of its simplicity and sloppiness without being annoying (like their earlier records) and I think those are the records other like the least. I think though that I couldn’t have chosen another album than PID for this column. There’s simply too much to talk about when it comes to lyrics, music and personal impact on this album. It also has a 20th anniversary. So the choice was simple.

Punk in Drublic was released July 19 1994 on Epitaph records. The cover is two iconic early 20th century photographs put together. The colors of the background of the different releases differ. The CD version is red, the vinyl is more orange or gold while the cassette version is blue (similar to the “Leave it alone” single). The album is definitely viewed as a classic. It has sold over a 500.000 records only in the United states and way more around the world. It peaked at number 12 in the billboard heat seekers chart (even if it never hit the top 200) and that’s way lower than Heavy Petting Zoo and So Long and Thanks For All the Shoes. That means it has sold a lot of records with time and not just in the first week.

1. “Linoleum”: If you go to a NOFX show, the chances of not hearing this song are very slim. And there’s a reason for that. The intro is maybe the most iconic thing they ever did. It starts off with El Hefe doing an opera impression or something and goes into an E power chord riffing and building up till it reaches a climax and all the punks starts moshing. The song tells the tale of someone who doesn’t have much, except a guitar and a dog named Dog. I think the song is about the power of music, but also identifying with those who doesn’t have anything, where music might be the only thing they can hold on to. Later in the song Fat Mike sings that he’s the one with violin under his chin, playing with a grin. Identifying with a street musician, showing us that maybe the most talented people might not the fame and fortune as their fellow musicians, but they still have the music. I think the “I” person in the song could be the song itself, because that song could be anyone that’s mentioned in the song from the person on the beachside and the person on the back of the bus. And the song gives us the catchy conclusion. “That’s me inside your head”

2. “Leave it alone”: Another staple from the live set (even if wasn’t played that much back in the day) and the song that is often seen as their “hit”. It charted nr 30 in Sweden and the music video was in heavy rotation on TV especially in Europe, in spite of the band refusing to let MTV play it. The video looks like a real punk rock barbecue. The song satirizes the way people refuse to progress or enforce social change and that they just want to go on with their lives and leave it alone. This is also emphasized with the catchy “Dananananana”’s that to me seem like a huge inspiration for songs like “All the Small Things”.

3. “Dig”: “Dig” is a quick little critique on reckless capitalism and sketchy business in the market. A bleak view into a frightening business world where everything is about making profit and not caring about who one will hurt or step on to make that profit. The line “The Henry Ford tradition preys on idle minds” might be a finger pointing towards America’s proud 20th century industrial history. Fat Mike also makes the clever pun “camped outside the Laissez faire” Laissez faire is a French capitalist term that means “leave it alone” and I see that as an allusion to the preceding song.

4. “The Cause”: This is a catchy pop punk number, I feel like this was the inspiration for their own “Whatever Didi Wants” from Heavy petting zoo. I think the song satirizes idealism in music and trying to create a homogenous punk rock community, and equally satirizing people only making music for money. Anyways, I’m doing this for the food, what is the cause again?

5. “Don’t Call Me White”: I think the lyrics to “Don’t Call Me White “are some of the greatest lyrics ever written (by Fat Mike). A common critique of the song could be that it’s a result of privilege and ignorance. The lyrics are written by a Jewish person, which kind of excludes the idea of the song being written by a privileged WASP male (even if it the lyrics might sting!). The lyrics serve as a parallel to anti-racist African American hip hop lyrics coming from a “fair skinned” person. The English language (and I’d say most languages) have more negative connotations for the color “black” than the color “white”. Fat Mike gives in the song the negative connotations related to the color white, like soap shoved in your mouth and the majority of sheep. How the white stereotype has just been the sheep on the animal farm, faceless people who are a majority and just go by the majority, simply a product of the tragic history that the pigs have caused. What’s great about the song is that any group of people or label could replace the word “white”. The song isn’t necessarily about ethnicity of racial differences, it’s about individuality. As soon as an individual is put in a label or generalized for a group they willingly or unwillingly belong to, it is oppressed. I don’t know how the song would be perceived if it was called “don’t call me jew” or similar and if white people in their fan base who praise it now would be stoked on that, but it would still have the same message: “Go ahead and label me and asshole cuz I can/accept responsibility for what I’ve done, but not for who I am”

6. “My Heart is Yearning”: Fat Mike, Smelly and Melvin started the band in 1983 and have played together ever since, they’ve had other vocalists than Fat Mike and several lead guitarists. On S&M Airlines and Ribbed, a metal dude named Steve played the lead guitar as well as singing the novelty song he wrote called “Together on the Sand”. He quit in 1991 and was replaced by El Hefe. After “The longest line” EP and the reggae song “Kill all the white man” (an opposition to “Don’t Call Me White”?) made Hefe take charge of the novelty songs. On White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean he both did a jazz cover of Minor threat’s “Straight Edge” and their original Charleston number “Buggley Eyes”. And as the Mexican in the band he did a song in Spanish on Wolves in wolves’ clothing called “Cantado en Español”. On PID Hefe sings “My Heart is Yearning” accompanied with brilliant reggae and ska music he sings high opera-esque vocals about something as romantic as his heart yearning for a loved one and something as bizarre as ejaculating in his own mouth.

7. “Perfect Government”: Before joining the band Hefe used to play with folk singer/songwriter Mark Curry. Curry wrote the protest song “Perfect Government” that NOFX covered on the album. A song about heartless fat cat politicians that don’t see the problems in the world in a humane view and have the same capitalist values as the business folks in “Dig”. Curry also sings on the NOFX version. It has some great musical work and fantastic harmonies. I do also like the original a lot. It’s become one of the band’s best known songs in spite of being a cover.

8. “The Brews”: I can’t remember what the first NOFX song I heard was on the radio that day back in June 2003, but I’m pretty sure it was “the Brews”! I remember it was about drinking and “the Brews” is usually the song that gets played on the radio in Norway. The song is a classic mash up of Jewish culture and the skinhead culture. The song gives us the greatest puns in Drublic. The cleverest one might be mashing up the Yiddish exclamation “oy” (or “Oy vey” with the Cockney exclamation “oi!”(meaning “hey!”) that is a genre of music that often gets loved by skinheads. There are also lots of references to Jewish culture like being the “chosen ones” and separating milk and meat.

9. “The Quass”: The start of side B of the LP version (and the cassette I presume), it sounds kind of metal and the only words are “the QUAAAAAAS”. It’s called “the Qwässitwörsh” on the vinyl and cassette. It’s not a very good song, but it builds up a climax to the next song: “Dying degree”.

10. “Dying Degree”: A great song with a catchy chorus. The song is about the elderly. It’s a bleak look of a lower class pensioner who purchases a deluxe cemetery plot. The chorus is a pun which could have three meanings, the original “dying degree”, “Die and agree” and “die in degree”. The guitar solo is also pretty neat.

11. “Fleas”: Another classic about the hypocrisy of parents. The song tells the tale of someone grows up with his father telling him what to do and if not he’ll have to live like a dog and he never disobeys him. His mother wants her son to have a good life and be good, even if his parents weren’t, giving the advices “follow what I say not what I’ve done” and “shower, scrub and shave/cleanly boys don’t misbehave” Nice alliteration there.

12. “Lori Meyers”: “Lori Meyers” is one of the best songs Fat Mike has ever written, both lyrically and musically. It’s a fast pop punk song with Smelly’s signature beat and, along with that, comes some guitar fills that are simply beautiful. The vocal melody is also rad! The lyrics are about pornography without being moralizing on either side; it’s simply a conversation between two childhood friends. The female character is being sung by guest vocalist Kim Shattuck from the Muffs, who definitely deserves a pop punk pick of their own. The male character in the song doesn’t seem to be an opponent to pornography, but he does seem to have a generalizing view that people (maybe especially women) who work in pornography are being degraded. This is not something he seems to have a problem with except when it comes to his childhood friend, Lori Meyers. It can sometimes be harder to accept something when it’s going on with someone you love, but what you might see as demeaning, could be empowering to the other person. Lori Meyers herself seems perfectly content with being a porn actress. She gets her money and she gets to live her life the way she wants and she felt more degraded in the regular job she had. She ends with the open rhetorical question “Where’s the problem?” and if I was to be really intellectual and analytical, going to the depths of pornography, maybe I’d have to answer that or see what the problem with her being a porn actress is, or if there even is a problem. I’m not gonna be really intellectual and analytical though.

13. “Jeff Wears Birkenstocks”: A song about hippies. More specifically, about a guy named Jeff (who I believe works for Epitaph) who wears Birkenstocks to work. The song is a rock n’ roll style and is incredibly catchy. The harmonies are brilliant too. Jeff is also mentioned in their “hippie” classic “August 8th” from Heavy Petting Zoo.

14. “Punk Guy”: A short little number. It’s a sarcastic jab at the stereotypical punk. Someone who is both “voted biggest asshole” and “role model of the year” and both politically correct and offensive. Lots of famous punks are referenced and this guy represents them all; GG. Allin, Ian Mackaye, Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious, Colin Jerwood and David Springa. There’s a different version of the song on the CD, the LP and the cassette. On the CD he says “Hell, he’s even more punk than me” in a redneck voice, on the LP he says “Blow me down, he’s more punk than me” in Popeye’s voice. I believe the CD also had different versions depend on label on the CD. On the Cassette, he says “Heavens to Murgatroyd, he’s more punk than me even” with Snagglepuss from yogi bear’s voice. There’s also a version on the “Don’t call me white” 7’’ where he says “Hello? That guys more punk than me” with a burger king worker’s voice. There are also more impersonations on the hidden track on the album.

15. “Happy Guy”: Along with “Lori Meyers” I also think this is one of Fat Mike’s best songs lyrically and musically. It’s definitely one of my favorite NOFX songs, and I saw them live when they played it for the first time ever. Even if it was shocking that they had never played it before. The song is about a born again religious person who finds happiness in his beliefs. Religion is something that Fat Mike’s lyrics have lately been more and more critical of. In “Pods and Gods” the protagonist finds the opposite view of the happy guy “It’s not that I don’t believe in Jesus Christ, it’s that I care ‘bout other things/This world could certainly use some miracles, until then I put my faith in human beings” to “The best God in Show” where there is no mutual respect for people who suffer from “rational thought neglect”. In “Happy Guy”, the religious guy is being appreciated, the song sees his hopes as “maybe false” but his happiness being real, and should we really judge people who have different beliefs than us when it makes them happy and doesn’t hurt us? It’s definitely something to be aware of when religious groups try to effect politics or force their religious beliefs on others, but if it’s a personal belief someone has that they follow, that’s their thing and really none of our business. And it doesn’t really matter if they are Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Scientologists or fucking Mormons. In fact the song might seem like the Mormon episode of South Park and the basis for their “Book of Mormon” music, the belief may be unscientific, but it makes them happy. I think everyone can learn something from this song, from people with religious views (regarding other religions), atheists and agnostics and Fat Mike himself.

16. “Reeko”: Another Reggae song, a song with a rad bass line. Melvin actually plays the bass when they do it live, because it’s hard for Mike to sing and play it, like Hefe sings another reggae song “Eat the Meek”(which also happens to be one of their best songs) live. Fat Mike uses a party as a metaphor for politics in this song, and the image of a trashed party where the toilet is over floating and the fishes are out of the fish bowl and everyone has left makes one think about how the earth is really being treated. Later the metaphor is cut and he starts addressing the president instead of Reeko, then it also goes from reggae to punk rock. Another metaphor of a sinking ship is introduced. The song also serves a continuation of “Dig” and what that kind of society of greedy capitalists will turn the world into; “The things we never tried to disallow have come back to haunt us now” His “Lay dies and gentlemen” pun is also classic.

17. “Scavenger Type”: The album couldn’t really be seen as a concept album or an epic, but the first and the last song (like “Dig” and Reeko”) has a clear connection to each other. “Linoleum” tells us of a musicians who doesn’t have much and someone with a violin just playing music while not having the riches a lot of musicians have. “Scavenger Type” is about someone gigging alone and playing music like it’s his only escape from a world of abuse and homelessness. The song is a tribute to all the musicians who have nothing, nothing but talent, some of them might not even have talent, but their passion for music may be all they have. In the end he reaches a zenith, the highest point, and finds perfection and then dies. This perfection could be ambiguous, either that he reaches his highest point or that no one saw him die. If he was found he’d be just a homeless person with a guitar, a tragedy for the world. Now he’s a legend because he lived on in NOFX’s song. Which gives the song a Meta aspect as it’s a tribute to this fella; it’s also a tribute to every struggle musician that can’t get a break or artists who aren’t discovered.

Punk in Drublic will always be a classic. They played it live in its entirety both at Groezrock and Punk rock bowling. Next pop punk pick will be the notorious Destroyed! by Sloppy Seconds.

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