Movie previews have become more and more manipulative lately. Often what you see in the preview turn out to be the only good scenes in a film that in its entirety is flat out boring.
Sometimes, CD singles are used as a way to tout an upcoming full-length album, teasing the listener with a few tracks from the album and filling out the single with previously unreleased material. NOFX used this technique on Never Trust A Hippy, the CD single that featured the songs “Seeing Double at The Triple Rock” and “The Marxist Brothers” from their new full-length, Wolves In Wolves Clothing. And true to the current form, the teasers turned out to be some of the best tracks on the album.
It’s not that Wolves In Wolves Clothing is a bad album, just extremely different from the NOFX that many punk/thrash lovers grew up with. Fat Mike, Melvin, Smelly and El Hefe are still around, playing with abandon. But so much of what gave NOFX its punch is gone. Gone are the ska and jazz riffs and in their stead is a lighter, more straight-edged rock/punk which, while played well, seems a little sanitized.
When you consider these guys have been playing together since the early eighties (with the exception of El Hefe, who hooked up with the band in the early nineties), touring like crazy and, despite what they’d have you believe, really working at the business of music, I think these guys can be excused for being tired and putting out an album that feels like a mere ghost of their former selves. This may be the result of the band working with the production crew from The Descendents, another band that’s been pulling farther away from their original sound. Or maybe they need some time in rehab, get their heads a little clearer, and then go back into the studio.
It’s interesting, because Never Trust A Hippy still contained a lot of the bands’ original energy. Both releases effectively trash the growing power of religious/political movements in the world, and Wolves In Wolves Clothing towers above much of the completely disengaged commercial pabulum that’s been burning up the charts lately. There are some standouts here, especially the first track “60%,” “The Man I Killed,” “Leaving Jesusland,” and “Getting High on the Down Low,” which approaches the cross-bred jazz elements the band used to be known for. The rest of the songs here are fairly innocuous, and the 20-minute “hidden track” is just a peek through the keyhole of a recording session, hardly worth the time it takes to listen to it.
If the rumble on this album were measured seismically, it would register at about 3.5 on the Richter scale, and that’s a little disappointing from a group that has been as consistently entertaining as NOFX. So while dishes on your armoire would unceremoniously crash to the floor and you might experience a slight sway in your gait, there just aren’t enough eruptions on Wolves In Wolves Clothing for it to interrupt your day. While there is still a lot here to admire, I wish the album had been more like the preview.