Wolves in Wolves' Clothing
Fat Wreck Chords
Never Trust a Hippy
Fat Wreck Chords
"Would you rather be fed bullshit from some twentysomething makeup-wearing pop star?" asks NOFX frontman Fat Mike on "60%," the celebration of slovenly underachievement that leads off Wolves in Wolves' Clothing. When the alternative is politicized pop-punk, my knee-jerk answer'd be "well, sometimes"—I think new wave and the truth are both fantastic. But then I acquainted myself with some of the newer, next-er names that the SoCal vets accompany on this year's Warped Tour: bleats confusing self-pity with defiance, riffs convoluting endlessly in search of hooks. I craved something articulate, playful, committed, relatively bullshitless.
And Wolves in Wolves' Clothing—well, it wasn't quite it. It's less an elaboration of 2003's giddily spiteful The War on Errorism than a bitter post-election sequel to the two Rock Against Bush compilations that Mike curated in '04. From the apocalyptically fatalist "USA-holes" ("The captain's placing blame on the iceberg") to the heartland-hating "Leaving Jesusland" ("They got a mandate, they don't want man-dates"), the lyrics cling to that resentful sense of national betrayal that most of us exorcised on our November 5, 2004 blog posts.
So applaud the Fat Wreck Chords honchos (that'd be Mike and the boys) who also put out a six-song EP a month before the full-length. Never Trust a Hippy repeats two cuts from Wolves, and they're the weakest here. "The Marxist Brothers" is smugger than the "idealist bourgeois" it critiques ("The people's revolution is gonna be podcast"), and "Seeing Double at the Triple Rock" ain't quite as fun as "watching Paddy talk" (or even strip). But NOFX justify their overindulgence more wisely on the EP's age-be-damned "Everything in Moderation (Especially Moderation)." They distill their politics more directly into the self-explanatory "You're Wrong." They rip through the Germs-penned antiwar romp, "Golden Boys." Then Jesus himself wraps things up on "I'm Going to Hell for This One," demanding royalties from Mel Gibson and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
NOFX, Fat Mike cheerily predicts, will eventually "go out, played-out and well after our time"—a fate that their fellow fogey on this summer's Warped circuit, Joan Jett, has had a blast enduring for a decade-plus now. Jett's concert set has settled into a predictable groove during that period, so I'm reassured by reports that "Androgynous," the Replacements cover she made a live staple years ago, isn't the only song she's been performing from her latest, Sinner. On that new disc, "AC/DC" ("She got some other fella as well as me") and the filthy "Fetish" ("Relax/While I pound your ass") rev up the sexuality she initially sublimated into black leather and songs like "Love Is Pain." As always, Jett can't maintain that level of inspiration, but, as always, she rocks dutifully, battling her way, as always, through her glossy chug-a-chug.
And Jett does make good on her mid-'90s fling with riot grrrl. Incredibly, the not-really-political not-really-punk has emerged as damn-near the feminist godmother that hyper-politicized young punks have always fantasized her to be. Granted, her political sensibility is as vague as you'd fear from a woman whose determination has always (deliberately?) outstripped her ambition: "Change the World" won't; "Turn It Around" can't. But "Riddles," a flat-out demand for straight talk, lays waste to two notorious government sound bites: Rumsfeld's cryptic categorization of "known knowns" and "known unknowns," and Bush's "old saying in Tennessee" that "you fool me—you can't get fooled again."
In the face of obfuscation, Jett is articulate, playful, committed, all that good stuff. Of course, if you'd rather be fed bullshit from some twentysomething makeup-optional crypto-metal/emo-pop star, that can be arranged.