Review Summary: Fat Mike's pwnage days are numbered.
You are the lead of an unknown semi political punk band about to meet Fat Mike for a possible record deal. You enter a rather large mansion like house. You are immediately stopped by security to be scanned and checked once you enter. After extensive searching, they've found nothing and they let you walk. You walk slowly as one of the guards pulls a lever and you fall into a steel door trap. You slide down the chute until you reach underground and land in what seems to be a coal mine. You run because you're scared for your life. You get backed into a corner and you realize that there are dozens of snakes inching themselves towards you. A kid from out of nowhere tosses you a whip and vanishes into the darkness of the deep end of the cave. You crack your whip as you back up as far as you can. The snakes are not backing off. You bump into a secret lever and the wall carries you to the other side. There now you must face Jello Biafra to the death for the privilege to be in Fat Mikes presence. Not to mention the ceiling full of spikes starts to lower gently for the added drama. As the spikes get closer, a beautiful yet dominate woman shows up under the ground to grab you and pulls you under. Jello ends up being squished by the spikes. Now crawling in a cobwebbed crawlspace, you come to the light at the end of a tunnel. She leads you out and you are led into a huge diamond encrusted room fit for a king. Fat Mike walks 'penguin' like in a "Not My President" t-shirt, a five o'clock shadow, and cheap cigarettes on his breath. You wait to hear what he has to say.
Fat Mike - "So from what I hear from your demo, it sounded dope as ***. Give me a call in about a week and we can schedule a meeting."
It just shows how disjointed Fat Mike and the band NOFX became since their start in 1983 with their name taken from root to hardcore band Negative FX. After a few EP releases on Mystic and a few line up changes (one deceased). NOFX released their debut Liberal Animation in 1988 (later rereleased on Epitaph in 1991). The sound was aggressive, even metal influenced. Then S&M Airlines was released in 1989, and a more developed sound on Ribbed in 1990. The band gained territory with the release of White Trash, Two Heebs & A Bean in 1991. Now on a roll after Punk In Drublic cleaned up accidently off of Green Day's success in 1994, they gained a strong fan base. They released two more fan favorites (Heavy Petting Zoo, and So Long And Thanks For The Shoes), they've released this final album on their record label, Epitaph in 2000.
Fat Mike - Vocals, Bass
El Hefe - Guitar
Eric Melvin - Guitar
Erik Sandlin - Drums
To some, Fat Mike's flat, screeching vocals can come off as a bit obnoxious, but it has guided by the band's razor edge slice of punk. The guitars and bass at times can be played at freakishly neck break speeds for a punk band. The drums keep the pace moving along as well. The song writing at times are still immature and sometimes vulgar. Then other times it tries to have a meaning for what they believe. But it seems that Fat Mike had made much progress as a songwriter over the past 18 years prior to this album. Because the songs can sound like it can barely be stitched together, plus their references to drugs despite their age. But hey! Gotta keep the punk rock scene gritty instead of going all "scene like." Wrong, the music has become watered down compared to the grit on Ribbed and Liberal Animation. I can't say that all of NOFX's past musical tendencies are gone, the instrumentals, especially the drumming, are still slightly sloppy and lightning quick.
This NOFX album has the four basic principles.
1. "Thank God for irony"
The side of NOFX I enjoy the most is their sense of irony in their music. Rather than the vulgar side, the sarcastic side of their humor takes on a theme and gives an enjoying listen. My personal favorite NOFX song in the past is "Please Play This Song On The Radio." Well this is no different. Two stand out tracks of this type of humor are "Thank God It's Monday" and "What's The Matter With Parents Today." Well when you have no 9-5 job as do Fat Mike, you are not cheering TGIF, because to a non worker, it’s the worst day of the week, for the simple fact that the movies and restaurants are packed. So Monday would be the best time to do whatever you want. Well the song "Thank God It's Monday" explains the benefits like that. Well the song can lean towards the pop-punk end of the spectrum with the glossiness to the music. But the drumming by Erik Sandlin is just fantastic through out. Fat Mike almost sings too fast during the verse to where you can't understand him, but that’s ok, it fits with the song. "What's The Matter With Parents Today" is an ironic twist on how parents act like their kids in all the wrong ways. Such as drugs, drinking, going to punk shows, dyeing hair, etc... Well that kind of activity is supposed to be left to the children, just to rebel. But seemingly it's not cool anymore. The song is played at a slight slower paced than Thank God It's Monday, but gets through with fast paced drums and a catchy melody.
2. "My new designer's cunt."
Well this is the more vulgar sense of humor NOFX sometimes cross while recording an album. A lot of times having to do with a subject that can and sometimes will offend some Christian organization somewhere. On Pump Up The Valuum's case, there are two songs with this kind of subject matter, "Louise" and "My Vagina." Both vaguely used the forbidden word shown in the title to this paragraph. "Louise" is more in likely a continuation to "Liza And Louise" on their White Trash, Two Heebs & A Bean album, where it goes incredibly in-depth on sexual acts brought upon two very kinky lesbians. Right off the bat Fat Mike belts out the line "She had a walk like a silicone cock sticking in her ass and one in her
You just know it's going to be a ride of a song. Compared to the rest of the album, the riff is more bouncy and the instrumentals are more mellowed out. Surprised that Fat Mike's vocals are more tolerable on this track. Less than two minutes long, the song takes through a journey and is more pop punk, than punk. Personally I think Fat Mike wrote this song, so he can sing the line "bitch, make me cum,"
but that’s probably just me. "My Vagina" takes the role of a man going through the changes in life, after receiving a sex change. Such as wiping from front to back, peeing through a miniature hole, but still not getting monthly blood drips. Well the difference between this song and "Louise" is that this is kind of obnoxious. Fat Mike's vocals can really hit a bad cord. The El Hefe's guitar tone doesn't match what’s going on with Fat Mike, and the song moves at a terribly slow pace. At least it does have pretty funny lyrics.
3. "This is not a test of the emergency broadcast system, this is the real thing.
Yes, NOFX has a serious side to them too. Like the ying to the yang on an NOFX record. These songs usually pertain to a message not so hidden through the lyrics. Like on the fan favorite "Dinosaurs Must Die" where the meaning is about a the fall in the modern music industry. Well since when has the music industry have been not
about money. To my understanding that is what the industry is all about. But Fat Mike is more in likely retaining to the punk world, making the transition from playing music just to play music, to make a paycheck. The song's overall feel is aggressive, even Fat Mike's vocals are aggressive. Maybe a little too preachy on how punk should be played, but doesn't take away on how rad
this song is. Leave it to NOFX to hide their personal beliefs in a light hearted sing a long such as "Clams Have Feelings Too." Pretty much a rant on their belief in animal cruelty, with funny plays as using old people and children as examples, which is always good in my book. The music is typically played at a fast rate, but vocals seem to be lagging, like at a slower rate than what the song is moving. Leaving the song feel disjointed in a way. "Total Bummer" is pretty much a rant on how lonely Fat Mike is. Taken the lyric "Why won't anybody *** me, I don't want to live life lonely."
After yelling "Go away, sunny day"
over again at the verse, the song can get kind of annoying with the vocals reaching a screeching high. Again, the instrumentals are played at a well kept pace, but this time Fat Mike keeps up on vocals. Well at this point, it is a very typical song to find, but still keeps the flavor.
4. "The only drug problem I see, is not scoring real good drugs."
Finally, NOFX likes to play songs about taking pointless drugs. As if they keep no moral standard to their young listeners. Also keep in mind that these guys are getting close to hitting 40 and singing about drugs still thinking they are edgy and rad. "Herojuana" is a song that tries to justify his reasoning to do drugs. The song doesn't carry any real formula unlike the rest of the album. No real hook to carry along the song, just a misplaced song on a hook laden record. "Pharmacist's Daughter" is a sad attempt at a love song turned into using a woman for prescription drugs. The song doesn't even classify as a classic NOFX song at all. "Bottles To The Ground" is actually a nice little drinking diddy. It doesn't really start to pick up until the chorus, which is a joygasm of a chorus. Very catchy guitar hook and nicely played drums. Well personally for me, NOFX has so much more potential rather than the childish lyrical content that is presented, which does show through their next two LP's (War On Errorism, Wolves In Wolves Clothing) but on here the songs are far to stretched to fit into paper thin hooks.
The album ends on the most original NOFX closing song to date, "Theme From A NOFX Album." Starting off played on an accordion, which by the way is bad ass. The song gives a comical description on each member of NOFX. Such as Melvin not being able to sing, Erik drinking enough booze to make Rhode Island drunk, and El Hefe's Mexican heritage. Right after Melvin's introduction, here is where Fat Mike really gets his head stuck up his ass. There is a killer guitar solo leading into the grand entrance of the almighty Fat Mike, which is probably the more humorous of the descriptions. Explaining his love for big lesbians and his singing style. Here's where song gets out of control, people start to introduce themselves from left and right, obviously inside jokes. The song ends back with accordion taking the song out. Nothing like a reminisce of aging punk rockers.
From the opener "And Now For Something Completely Similar," which should give you a clue for what you're in for. Well you can find better NOFX almost everywhere else you find. That don't mean that this album is really that bad, just not as strong as such classics as Punk In Drublic and So Long And Thanks For The Shoes. But after over 18 years playing music, you think the lyrics wouldn't be so stretched and juvenile. This is the last adventure with Epitaph records, but certainly not the last from these older, yet young at heart punk rawkers.
If NOFX were a brand of milk, Pump Up The Valuum would land as...
Straight From The Tit: Liberal Animation
, S&M Airlines
Whole Vitamin D: White Trash, Two Heebs, And A Bean
, Punk In Drublic
2%: Heavy Petting Zoo
, So Long And Thanks For All The Shoes
1%: Pump Up The Valuum
Skim: War On Errorism
, Wolves In Wolves Clothing
The Sludge's Thumb Up's
Thank God It's Monday
Theme From A NOFX Album
Take Two Placebos And Call Me Lame