Ah, NOFX...the little band that could. Who would have thought when, back in 1983, that four punks playing punk rock at breakneck tempos, singing out of tune, would be so successful" Who would have thought that they would still be around today, playing high profile gigs in countries such as Japan, let alone in their native America" More to the point, who would have thought that those four punks writing two-minute songs could ever write an eighteen minute, yes eighteen
minute song…that works" Probably no-one. Well, NOFX have done all of these things in their nearly twenty-five year long career. The Decline is NOFX’s masterpiece; their
‘Master of Puppets’; their
‘Shape of Punk to Come’ – well, almost.
Just as my review starts with questions, so does ‘The Decline’
with the intriguing question “Where are all these stupid people from and how did they get to be so dumb"”
A seemingly common, simple question but it is one that invites an eighteen minute essay/rant on America’s state of affairs along with NOFX’s trademark lightning quick punk, as well as some brilliant recurring motifs played by Hefe on the trumpet. While the lyrics are fairly ranting, they are still coherent. They explore the negative aspects of American society including senseless killings, guns and greed. There are some memorable lyrics throughout, including the anthemic “We are the whore-intellectually spayed. We are the queer-dysfunctionally raised.”
The song starts with a slow, building bass intro that leads into the first of several fast punk sections. In its simplest form, the songs structure is fast punk section followed by quiet bass-led interlude, but really, there is so much more to the song than that. That a band can write an eighteen minute song in a genre of music that is intended to last for two-three minutes is phenomenal, and this is down to NOFX’s great song-writing skills. The song is essentially a normal album, condensed and compressed in both time and number of songs. While listening to it, it may strike you that it would have been possible to separate ‘The Decline’ into five or six different tracks, but by doing this the song/album/whatever! would have so much less impact. What makes the song work so well is how the different sections segue into the next. The only downside to this is that all too often they do this by all instruments except the bass dropping out abruptly. While this does work well, it gets very repetitive. Nevertheless, ‘The Decline’ isn’t affected too much by this as guitar solos and chants of “One more pill to kill the pain…”
work just as well, if not better than the bass interludes.
Back in 1983, when four punks started playing punk rock at breakneck tempos while singing out of tune, no one thought that they would be successful – but they are. No one thought that they would still be around today, playing high profile festival slots and gigs in countries on the other side of the planet, let alone in their native America – but they do. Back then, no one would have thought that NOFX could write an epic eighteen minute song – but they did. ‘The Decline’ was released almost nine years ago now, but it has stood the test of time and is still
socially relevant today. Before and after this song NOFX have continuously put out albums of a very high quality that are loved by music fans everywhere. The world may be in decline, but NOFX sure as hell aren’t.