Wolves in Wolves' Clothing
Although Wolves in Wolves' Clothing starts off with a promising bang, NOFX loses footing halfway in and stumbles downhill for the rest of the record. Maybe it shouldn't be a surprise when the first line of the amusing opening track proclaims, "I'm not here to entertain you...I'm here because old habits die hard/And seriously what else am I supposed to do?" But even so, expectations were pretty high coming into the album off their smartly wry EP Never Trust a Hippy, which was released a month earlier. Beginning well enough, the first half of Wolves is full of super-tight, tongue-in-cheek punk rock antics that make one think and laugh at the same time. "Seeing Double at the Triple Rock" is a seriously fun tune with charging guitar riffs that usher in drunken good times over at Dillinger Four guitarist Erik Funk's popular Minnesotan social club. NOFX's unabashed distaste for George W. and his cronies emerges blatantly in the thick bass of "USA-holes" and less outwardly in the bouncy, country-ish saunter of "The Man I Killed." Fat Mike also addresses the war in Iraq differently than just outright attacking the government -- a junkie friend successfully cleans himself up by joining the Army, only to later get killed in "Benny Got Blowed Up." Serious topics (including many attacks on overzealous Bible-thumpers) tempered with NOFX's trademark sarcastic nature soon become much shorter and less fun near the album's middle. The trouble isn't that the songs are just short -- quick in-and-out blasts are normally quite satisfying -- it's that these tunes just seem unfinished or plain forgettable. A few exceptions appear, like the brash "100 Times F*ckeder" or the sentimental quasi-elegy to friends lost over the years in "Doornails," but it's not enough to make the hodgepodge feeling of filler songs near the end disappear. Thus, Wolves in Wolves' Clothing simply lacks that cohesive sense of being an entire album to enjoy. It's not that NOFX have lost their ability to offend, mock, challenge, and entertain in one sardonic, glistening package. Just the opposite, actually: over two decades old, the band really sounds as tight, relevant, and sharp as ever. It's just that the second half seems a bit lazy overall, which makes the inherent lack of fun all the more frustrating.