Though NOFX performed all of 1992’s ripping White Trash, Two Heebs and a Bean at a pool party concert in California last year, the punk group’s new Single Album consciously curdles their salad days.
Take Linewleum, a deconstructionist eulogy for Linoleum, the melancholy speedball that opened 1994’s Punk in Drublic. Familiar octave-forward melodies and double-barreled beats still abound, but Linewleum upends the arrangement with never-ending chord changes, eventually pivoting from skate punk toward shred-heavy guest guitarmonies from Avenged Sevenfold’s Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance.
Lyrically, bassist-vocalist Fat Mike lays out with a sneer that the goal was to take their most celebrated anthem and “make it not very good”.
“It was fucked,” chuckles guitarist Aaron “El Hefe” Abeyta, admitting that he and co-guitarist Eric Melvin had to unlearn a quarter century’s worth of muscle memory to get through the self-sabotaging revamp. “There are so many changes in that one; it’s all over the place.”
Though Gates and Vengeance revved up Linewleum, Single Album’s other big lead is the bluesier bend and wail El Hefe brings to I Love You More Than I Hate Me. But in contrast to the high-voltage scale runs he had to re-learn for the White Trash concert, he and Melvin’s roles are substantially more supportive on Single Album.
In part, this stems from the record’s especially heavy themes, with reggae-driven musings on gun violence (Fish in a Gun Barrel) and melodic hardcore blasts about terminal illness (My Bro Cancervive Cancer) leaving little room to wild out. “I do love soloing when it’s appropriate,” Hefe says.
Both guitarists used a rotating cast of Les Pauls in the studio to chunk up the record’s rhythm-driven direction, but when NOFX can safely get back in front of crowds, El Hefe will once again hoist the finish-obliterated ’77 Tele he’s been playing live for decades.
“That is the Telecaster that I auditioned to get into NOFX with,” he explains, though the band quickly had him yank out the Floyd Rose he’d installed as an EVH devotee.
“I was way into the whammy, then Mike said ‘you gotta get rid of the whammy, dude. It’s not punk rock,’ so I had it removed. There are still two holes on the Tele from where it was mounted at the time.”
When asked if he’d consider bringing back the whammy, El Hefe gleefully begins mouthing out a blitzkrieg of divebomb noises, but ultimately concludes: “I think Mike would shit his pants.”