Review Summary: Pump up the Valuum is yet another solid album to be added to the NOFX legacy, providing a fun listen and a good gateway into one of the more influential punk bands of the last 20 years.
Most everyone I have spoken to about music, regardless of genre or tastes can agree on one simple thing: most everyone has a band that has either shaped their music tastes to this day, or whose works have just infested their music collection like mold. For me, this band is NOFX; I’ve loved them since the first time I heard them way back in like 5th grade. While it seems to me that most fans tend to dislike most of their newer work (anything post-The Decline EP), but worship their earlier works, there is really no large dissimilarity between the two eras. So when Pump up the Valuum was released to mixed reactions in 2000, I was quite astounded that quite a few long time fans did not enjoy it.
From the first note of the album, it was strikingly obvious that the NOFX we all know is back and in strong form. Musically, the album, as I’ve stated before, doesn’t betray their older work in any way shape or form. The quick rhythms and blasting drumbeats are in full effect on tracks like Take Two Placebos and Call Me Lame
, which is one of the many highlights of their album. Transitioning on a dime from typical speed punk to an unpredictable jazzy section driven by a thumping bassline, Placebo
shows that punk doesn’t have to be senselessly fast and musically flat, but can have plenty of exciting dynamics and experimental moments.
Pump up the Valuum runs on two modes for the majority of the album. Firstly, the aforementioned hyperactive punk that the band practically wrote the book on is here in copious amounts, especially on tracks such as the catchy romp of Thank God it’s Monday
, the depression-addled tale of Total Bummer
, and the pro-drug legalization anthem of Herojuana
all speed along fast enough to make all of their imitators wince in envy and lend their discography some of its strongest cuts thus far. But what also proves to be one of the album’s greatest strengths is the variety provided by the poppier, grittier, punk songs such as the absurdly vulgar female masturbation narrative Louise
and the polka-punk fusion of the closing track Theme From a NOFX Album
When it comes to lyrics, it’s a love-hate relationship for most people. There really isn’t a middle ground of “their lyrics are just okay”. For what they do, they do it extraordinarily well. Combining the serious and the humorous like no other band can really do, NOFX tackle some of the most important issues to society in general all while maintaining a snide sense of humor about it. Dinosaurs Will Die
is a directed assault at the mainstream music industry and major record labels, replete with lyrics such as “Gonna fight against the mass appeal/We're gonna kill the 7 record deal/Make records that have more than one good song/The dinosaurs will slowly die/And I do believe no one will cry/I'm just fucking
glad I'm gonna be/There to watch the fall” providing a caustic lyrical attack towards all that is wrong with music business. However, tracks like Pharmacist’s Daughter
and My Vagina
are fun romps through dating a girl just for access to her prescription drugs (the former) and having a sex-change operation (the latter). The primary lyrical mood of this album is more inane and vulgar than serious however, as nine out of the 14 songs are filled to the brim with drug humor and songs about lesbians. In a nutshell, this album is simply fun.
Yes, Fun. When it comes down to it, is what this album (and, even further, the band) really shines at. While NOFX is plenty technically astute, it is their ability to craft a truly great and enjoyable song with a minimum amount of frills that truly makes this album stand out among its contemporaries. Although the album is not without faults, especially concerning certain songs being a bit repetitive, and only a modest amount of variety between the 14 tracks, there is plenty about this album to enjoy. It is certainly an excellent gateway into melodic punk, and one that I recommend most anyone check out.
Take Two Placebos and Call Me Lame, Dinosaurs Will Die, Thank God It’s Monday, Pharmacists Daughter