There is a lot of "safe" music out there today. Most bands are either too afraid or too dumb to tackle actual issues in their music, because they know that unless they play the game they won't ever win the prize of fame and fortune. Unfortunately, I have just about summed up the current sad state of music in one sentence. The few bands that are willing to stick their head out of the hole usually have their brains blown out by either record labels who are concerned about offending people or super oppressive, super controlling, and super conservative radio broadcast company (I know the tense is wrong, but it is because there's only one - Clearchannel for those of you out of the loop). This means that if someone at the top thinks that someone's voice is contrary to theirs, they will silence that person faster than you can say "First Amendment." Boy, it sure is a good thing that there is one or two good ole fashion punk bands that are willing to include a little political commentary amongst their three chords.
Rather surprisingly, this burst of intellectualism stems from a very familiar, yet usually rather juvenile band, California's own NOFX. The War On Errorism demonstrates that a band can actually grow a brain (as well as some balls), and sing a song that might carry a message behind it, and cause the listener to actually think after the song is done. It's a good contrast to the current standard of "anthems" and what not, that the teenagers of America are currently gobbling up. This is one time they can sure learn something from a band that has been around just about as long as most of them have been alive.
The first track on the album addresses the sorry state of "punk" music today, and encourages the bands to grow some balls, and write a song that might piss someone off, because that's what punks are supposed to do. "The Separation of Church and Skate" asks questions like "When did punk rock become so safe?" and "When did the scene become a joke?" and the very true "Where's the violent apathy?" I usually don't give a song by song analysis, but this track hit's the nail on the head. If you took a random kid in the front row at a "punk" show today and threw them in the front row at a Minor Threat or concert 15 years ago, that kid would be in the obituaries the next day. No one, even most of the bands, knows how things used to be so they have no standards, they just know what sells, and conform to that mold. That, my friend, is the antithesis of punk.
After hearing the next three tracks on The War On Errorism I got a little confused, because, aside from the fact that the vocals had Fat Mike's very distinct nasal whine, I thought I was listening to a Michael Moore lecture. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. I happened to be right in the middle of reading Stupid White Men the day this album was handed to me, and if you don't like reading, but want the gist of the book listen to "The Irrationality of Rationality," "Franco Un-America," and "Idiots Are Taking Over" in order. Aside from the fact that most of the lyrics were drawn directly from Mr. Moore, the issues addressed should be put in the form of music, and presented to an entirely different audience than would be reading his books. Spreading the word about how the American public is being screwed in hugely needed, but you're going to have to go buy the album for the whole story, because I assure you, no matter how many request you send to your local modern rock station, most of these tracks will never make it to the airwaves. "Regaining Unconsciousness," and "American Errorist (I Hate Hate Haters)," are also two required tracks if you're looking for the musical cliffnotes to Micheal Moore.
The remaining tracks on the albums go away from the theme of this album and fall into the "normal" NOFX catalog. They do address Billie Joe's biggest fears on any of Green Day's early Lookout releases (being a punk and getting old) on "Mattersville," a track describing a punk retirement community in Cali. "Medio-core" addresses the averagness of today's bands, and how the fun of going to a show is lost. In contrast, "13 Stitches" recounts what one can only suspect was Fat Mike's first experience with live quality music (The Descendents, DOA, ect.) and the hospital visit that ensued.
All in all, The War on Errorism should be required listening for anyone with 1/3rd of a brain, and a required purchase for anyone who understands what punk music should be. The only thing that I found to be a big problem on this album was that "The Idiot Son of an Asshole" is not included as CD audio, and can only be viewed as a live performance on a computer via Enhanced CD capabilities. Everyone in the country should hear this track. It is pretty cool though that they included it, in some form at least. One of the other features that is an option when you insert this CD into your computer is an 8 minute, thought provoking trailer for the documentary Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election, which is worth the purchase of the CD alone. My recommendation: go out and buy this album, or read Stupid White Men. NOTE: The album's much faster.
Jason Cipriano is the Senior Editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.