I came to NOFX’s new full length with minimal expectations but came away pleasantly surprised. This is probably one of the most, if not the most, consistent NOFX releases I have heard. I like NOFX. I think “Linoleum” is one of the best punk songs ever, and have caught them live more than a few times, but when it comes to their albums, even my favorites such as Punk in Drublic and The War on Errorism have songs on them that I have to skip or do my best to ignore (I’m thinking of you “My Heart Is Yearning” and “Anarchy Camp”). Not so with Self/Entitled. The closest to a weak spot is “Xmas Has Been X’ed” but being the last track, it isn’t really much of an issue, and, all said, it is an okay song. “72 Hookers,” which starts the album, features Fat Mike’s perhaps debatable take on Middle East foreign policy in regards to jihadists, but also has a classic-sounding skate punk opening riff, up there with “The Separation of Church and Skate.” A particular highlight is “She Didn’t Lose Her Baby,” which plays like the even darker companion piece to White Trash ‘s… “She’s Gone” taken from the side of an addict mother. Fat Mike really shines on songs like these because he can frame effectively empathetic character studies of people who are not necessarily characters deserving of sympathy, but of some understanding. The same goes for the short “I, Fatty” which appears to be based on Jerry Stahl’s engrossing fictionalized autobiography of Fatty Arbuckle of the same name. One of my problems with Wolves in Wolves’ Clothing and Cokie the Clown were the way the albums’ more personal tracks reveled so heavily in Fat Mike’s self destructive behavior to the point of seeming contemptuous of both those close to him and his fans. Thankfully, there are now songs that seem to reflect a sort of maturation in acknowledging consequences to these actions. “Cell Out” is a narrative song detailing an ill-fated trip to a bar and having an uncomfortable “you can never go back” moment with a hardline former fan who accuses the narrator of selling out. What is perhaps the centerpiece of the album is “I’ve Got One Jealous Again, Again” (the sequel to the much more optimistic “We’ve Got Two Jealous Agains”) which deconstructs Fat Mike’s divorce through the lens of a lifelong dedicated punk fan and record collector. It peels back the sarcasm and eternal adolescence that many assign as NOFX’s modus operandi, to examine a failed adult relationship in a very concise and affecting manner. It may not be emo, but the bit of honesty really does a lot to help NOFX craft an album capable of standing next to many of their stronger works, which is impressive after a career this long.
–Adrian Salas (Fat)