I don’t remember much of 1992, but it was the year I turned 3! It was probably the year I discovered the Moomin trolls and they would become my main obsession the next 3-4 years. This is also the year that Bill Clinton gets elected as the president of the United States and Benny Hill and Marlene Dietrich died. These are the albums I’ve chosen from these years, none of which I heard when they came out!
The Mr. T Experience- Milk Milk Lemonade
I originally thought this album was released in 1991 and was about to put it on that list and discovered last minute that it wasn’t. It was produced by Kevin Army and released on Lookout Records. This was the last album with Jon Von in the band and he was also responsible for the art direction, but he doesn’t sing lead vocals on any of the songs like he did on earlier albums. Other than that, the album is pretty similar to Making Things with Light with all the wanky guitar solos, but I think it sounds a lot better and the songwriting is a lot better. The album is great right from the get-go, the opener “Book of Revelation” starts with a baroque-esque melody and it’s played on what sounds like a Renaissance key instrument, but it might just be a Harpsichord, who knows? The guitar solo sounds like classical music and it’s really soothing to the ears, I might add! The lyrics are all weird, one could go “this is a song about reading the bible”, but also at the same time think “this is a song about a girl”; considering this is MTX, the latter seems reasonable. The last song “See It Now” is one of the most heartbreaking songs I know, it’s the ultimate cry of a lover that has given up: “It must’ve been stranger than fiction/You’re gonna be someone’s wonderful wife someday”. In the middle we find a lot of great songs too, the somewhat creepy “Last Time I Listened to You” and “Make-up” which has assonance that you couldn’t make up, like “rhyming” the word “pointless” with “avoid it”. The obligatory cover on the album is the Smiths’ “What Difference Does It Make?”, apparently Morrissey’s least favorite Smiths song. The album also has my least favorite MTX song: “Christina Bactine”, but I gotta admit that even that is a pretty cool song about a girl. The nursery rhyme title and the lunchbox album cover makes the album feel like a nostalgic trip to 1970s America, just like Making Things with Light. I remember hearing Milk Milk Lemonade for the first time in 2008 and I’ve been loving it ever since. I think I bought the vinyl at the same time as I bought Love Is Dead in 2010.
NOFX- White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean
Released on November 5, 1992 on Epitaph Records, White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean took NOFX to even bigger heights than Ribbed did. The album was produced by Don Cameron and NOFX. It was the first full length with El Hefe on guitar and it’s also the album that is mostly dominated by Hefe. The jazzy Minor Threat cover “Straight Edge”, the more ska-inspired promiscuous tale “Johnny Appleseed” and Ragtime/ Charleston album closer “Buggley Eyes” are all sung by Hefe, and he also nails the back-up vocals on the album and his vocals are really what makes the album stand out. Fat Mike’s voice is still snotty and El Hefe’s soothing voice is a nice contrast that makes the album sound more poppy and the bridge in “She’s Gone” just makes the saddest song that exists even more heartbreaking, telling the story of a young girl who has lost her mom and stands alone in the schoolyard with no one to turn to. It’s an interesting album because of all the different styles on it, but also because, even more than Ribbed, it’s the album where NOFX really found their “sound”. Songs like “Stickin’ in My Eye” really was the foundation for the 90s skate punk thing. For some reason I always thought it was on a Tony Hawk game, but seems like it wasn’t, damn. This has got to be some Mandela Effect type thing. Anyways, “Soul Doubt” was on Guitar Hero World Tour. NOFX made music videos for “Stickin’ in My Eye” and “Bob”. I think the most underrated song on the album is “The Bag”, a song about being bored of people’s conversations and the drums are probably my favorite in a NOFX song and once again El Hefe’s vocal harmonizing with Fat Mike is great.
I bought it in the record store Disco Loco in Palma of all places in 2005 and I also found War on Errorism and a NOFX t-shirt in the same store. I had obviously heard a lot of the songs before, but I think that was one of the holidays I remember for wanting to rebel and I wanted to start smoking or something, but it looked so dangerous so I didn’t dare. I remember reading the lyrics to “Liza and Louise” in a punk magazine in 2003 and it really shocked me and I needed to hear the actual song so I went to the MTV website and heard a preview and I thought Fat Mike’s singing was so god damn snotty. At the end of 2004, I also went to the Epitaph page and downloaded “I Wanna Be Your Baby”, which is a weird-ass song, but it holds up pretty well as a song, I’d say. I also bought their greatest songs compilation at the same time and songs like “Bob”, “Stickin’ in My Eye” and “Soul Doubt” were on there, I bought the Ten Years of Fucking up DVD at the same time too, and most of the songs are on there, so maybe that’s why it took me that long to get the actual album; that and I didn’t really find it in any record stores and I couldn’t bother to order it.
Wax- What Else Can We Do?
I think I’ve already talked about when I heard this album for the first time (in the Weston Got Beat up article: https://keeptrackofthetime.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/read-hards-classic-pop-punk-picks-32-weston-got-beat-up/). I remember getting home that January day in 2009 and put on the CD and it said, “you just put the needle on a very unique record album” and though I didn’t actually do that, at least one of those were true. It was indeed a very special and unique album. I had never really heard anything like it. It was released on Caroline Records and produced by Daniel Rey (who worked with the Ramones a lot on their later stuff). The music video for “Hush” was directed by Spike Jonze. My favorite songs in the beginning were definitely “Hush”, a pop punk song with great indie pop influences, “All Over Again”, a bass driven masterpiece with a beautiful intro that I also think I talked about in the Weston article, the more skate punk number “Never Been Better” and the extremely 90s sounding “Continuation”. Lately my favorite has been “So I Said”, the slow part always gets to me. There’s something quite special about Joe Sib’s singing. I definitely don’t regret buying this album sole-ly because of the shoes on the album cover.
The Mr. T Experience- Milk Milk lemonade
So, finally, I get to include Milk Milk Lemonade in the ‘Years of Our Lives’ review after originally wanting to put it in the 1991 section. There are better MTX albums than this (and I’ll likely be talking about a couple of them, as the years progress), but I have always found MML to be super interesting and an intriguing mixed ol’ bag. This record was the first of what can be considered as MTX’s classic sound; by this point, Dr. Frank was starting to get into his love-sick, sarcastic pomp. The songwriting really went up a few notches on this one, compared to their earlier stuff.
MML pulls you in straight away with a Renaissance-y, baroque tune in “Book of Revelation”, which mixes religious imagery with love-torn yearning, in that cryptic form of songwriting that Dr. Frank does best. Meanwhile, “There’s Something Wrong with Me” typifies Frank’s at-times self-deprecating observations and humour. I really enjoy the sarcastic and satirical humour on “Love American Style”, too, that takes apart the American dream, not unlike what Screeching Weasel would do the following year on Anthem for a New Tomorrow. I know the cover of The Smiths’ “What Difference Does it Make?” is generally not well-liked but I think it’s pretty cool. I liked what they did with it, transferring the melancholy of the original to a pop-punk soundscape. The rest of the record comprises of straight-forward pop-punk- including the somewhat over-rated “I Love You, But You’re Standing on my Foot”, the ‘meh’ “Christine Bactine” and the fantastic album closer “See it Now”, a great bit of ‘heartbreak pop’ (including the gut-punch of a line, “I can’t believe I am saying what I am saying”)- and “Master of the Situation” that sounds more like the indie rock of the era than pop-punk, with its space-y, drawn-out guitar solos (I assume the ‘Master’ shout in the chorus is a play on Metallica’s “Master of Puppets”).
The Mr. T Experience were quite unique in the pop-punk universe, with their abundant references, quirks and sarcasm. It shows how much I value the band that I put this in the top 3 of 1992, even though I’m not sure it’s in the top 3 MTX albums. See you in 1994, MTX!
NOFX- White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean
For me, White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean is the first properly good NOFX full-length. There are odd decent bits in the band’s previous albums, but they are generally way too thrashy or metal-y for my tastes. On White Trash…, NOFX became a lot more accessible and melodic. It was basically a watershed record for introducing us to the NOFX that we became familiar with over the following 25 years. I guess you can call this LP ‘skate punk’ broadly, but what I’ve always enjoyed about NOFX is their propensity to mix shit up and continually surprise and that is certainly the case on White Trash…Arguably, the band has a bit of schtick that has gone past its sell-by-date now. The release of a new NOFX record now makes me feel numb but there was a time when I found them super exciting and a good part of it was this album. Having only been 4 at the time, I can’t say for sure, but I imagine that White Trash… shook up the punk world somewhat when it was released.
So, the standouts on this thing? “Bob” instantly comes to mind. I think it was the first NOFX I listened to, or at least the first one that I recall. I loved (and still do) that it was basically a simple punk tune, but also had something quite original going on, melodically and lyrically. “Stickin’ in my Eye” is a classic snarly punk track, but the two I love most on White Trash… are probably “Liza and Louise” and “The Bag”; the former for its pop-punk-y catchiness and shocking lyrics (at least to the 14/15 year old me that first heard this) and the latter for its melodic harmonies and smart comments on social awkwardness. NOFX certainly retained their playfulness and sarcastic take on the world on this record. While “Please Play This Song on the Radio” gets its point across in a somewhat obvious/boring way, the most notable of the silly, playful tunes are those that El Hefe (on his first NOFX LP) led vocals on: notably on the ska-ish, toe-tapping “Johnny Appleseed” and on one of the best covers of all time, “Straight Edge”. The likes of how these tunes highlights how cutting edge and intriguing NOFX were at this time compared to now. From this point, El Hefe usually had a ska/reggae-inspired tune on each of NOFX’s releases, as well as providing back-up harmonies, but it was on White Trash… that he took centre stage somewhat. So, I feel El Hefe was a big part of NOFX really ‘kicking on’ and I assume it was his influence that turned them to more melodic shores.
NOFX- The Longest Line EP
Yeah, more NOFX. I didn’t particularly want to write about another NOFX release that came out in 1992 but the rules of punk rock dictated that I had to, considering that this was the 3rd best punk release of the year. I always think of the early-to-mid ‘90s as halcyon days for pop-punk/punk rock, but 1992 was pretty sparse. Anyway, the ‘Longest Line’ was a great EP: it came out in May 1992 (and their first release on Fat Wreck), about five months before White Trash… came out. In many ways, it acts as an extension of it; or rather White Trash… acts as an extension of it! This was the first release that El Hefe contributed to, so in many ways, this, rather than White Trash, is the beginning of the signature NOFX sound.
Not unpredictable, but the title track on the EP is probably the highlight: an earworm-y bassline that builds up to a simple, but memorable chorus, with Fat Mike’s trademark snarl in tow. I love the lyrics on it; I count it among their best. It’s a bittersweet reflection on one’s continual bad luck that compares life to Chinese food, “sweet and sour/my life is sweet and saccharine”. The two that follow it, “Stranded” and “Remnants” are more intense and fast-paced punk rock that hit plenty of sweet spots. NOFX’s songwriting was at its best in this era and it is perfectly summed up on this EP, which collects some very wry, on-the-spot lyrics that find the right balance between making a point and just plain silly; this is obviously best found with “Kill all the White Man”, El Hefe’s first lead contribution in NOFX if I’m not mistaken. It’s a stone-cold classic reggae-punk tune El Hefe sings with a faux-Rasta accent. It critiques the colonial ‘civilizing’ mission while remaining firmly tongue in cheek. It was written in response to the Nazi punks prevalent in the punk scene at that time, at a similar time to when Screeching Weasel wrote “I Wanna be a Homosexual”. Interestingly, when you google the song, one of the first things that pops up is the Stormfront message board, suggesting that somebody missed the point somewhat…