Sound — 6
Over thirty years since their inception, what's always made NOFX a purist's kind of punk band is their "give no sh-ts" demeanor, spearheaded by the erratic Fat Mike. Whether it's his dependably sardonic lyrics aimed at the holy, the political, or his own band, or his outrageous conduct that's even compelled him to allegedly piss in everyone's drink at Emo's (it was later proven that he did not actually do it), Mike's persona is still one of punk's finest - and hell, it was only a couple of months ago that Mike kicked a fan in the face at a show in Australia, and then made it up to that fan by letting him get a revenge kick.
It's antics like this that inevitably brought the idea of NOFX making a documentary series, entitled "NOFX: Backstage Passport," for Fuse TV in 2012. Taking all opportunities to perform anywhere in the world, the show portrays the numerous scenarios the band faces, whether involuntarily (like performing in absurd places and getting ripped off by shady promoters) or voluntarily (like getting wasted on illicit substances and going to S&M shows). With the channel renewing the series for a second season that's due in the near future, the band have released the official soundtrack to the series to tide over anticipation.
For the most part, "Backstage Passport Soundtrack" acts as a collection of NOFX rarities from their elaborate EP series from a decade ago, "7" Of The Month Club," with the sound spruced up. While some of the rarities brought back prove worthy of being revamped-like the swingy and hard-rocky "Insulted by Germans (Again)," the wah-pedal wielding "All My Friends in New York," and the half song/half goofy band skit "Arming the Proletariat With Potato Guns"-others end up feeling pretty filler. "No Fun In Fundamentalism," "Teenage Punching Bag" and "Last Night Was Really Fun" are simple and effortless punk cuts, while their cover of The Dickies' "Fan Mail" opens with a lead guitar solo in the near-exact mold as the opening guitar in Coaster's "We Called It America."
The few original punk songs on the album don't provide total solace, either. With the opening track "Backstage Passport" and the closing track "Punk Rock Passport" being sonically identical, the only track on the album that's truly fresh is the short and sweet (and sour) "The Greatest Country in the World." If anything, though, the most interesting moments on the soundtrack are the breaks from the frantic power-chord punk mayhem, which provide a helpful shake-up from the familiarity in sound. "I Melvin" is guitarist Eric Melvin's forlorn solo number where he plays an accordion, "We're Bros" takes acoustic guitar, piano, and strings to conjure a soft-hearted score (most definitely out of parody) and the acoustic version of the "Wolves in Wolves' Clothing" track "You Will Lose Faith" is yet another case of how surprisingly well NOFX songs sound unplugged (other cases for this are their acoustic versions of "My Orphan Year" and "13 Stitches," as well as the acoustic rendition of "Linoleum" as covered by Streetlight Manifesto).
Lyrics — 7
As always with NOFX's work, the lyrics prove to be the most captivating element of the album, and for the most part, the signature egregiousness in Fat Mike's writing hasn't lost its fervor. The newest song, "The Greatest Country in the World," is their ode to South Africa, which of course just harps on the unflattering issues with the country, from the country's crime rate to the AIDS epidemic. This geographically-themed song fits well with the other ones of similar nature, like Mike's personal recounting of experiencing a handful of different countries and their cultures in "Insulted by Germans (Again)," and poking fun at the caricatured problems with living in New York in "All My Friends Live in New York." Outside of that theme, Mike still shows he can tell a cruel narrative with a smile when he sunnily talks about being responsible for letting a rich guy overdose and die in "Your Hubcaps Cost More Than My Car."
Of course, you'll run into some cases of underwhelming servings of lyrics. The extended lyrics found in the alternate version of the series' theme song "Punk Rock Passport" doesn't bring much more to the table, and when placed on the same album, "No Fun in Fundamentalism" feels like the lesser brother to the more popular "Leaving Jesusland (Live)." However, one could logically chalk it up to the fact that NOFX have written about 300 songs at this point, and they'd be the first to tell you that they'll miss the dartboard completely at times; as the final lyric in the album states perfectly, "we don't try really hard, we're NOFX."
Overall Impression — 5
While the low-bar catalog of songs from NOFX's old days will always stay worthwhile because of its raw irreverence and classic status, current-day NOFX have admirably raised the bar of quality in songwriting with their recent studio albums. With that being said, the collection of songs provided in "Backstage Passport Soundtrack" does not reach that bar that's been set. With only a few songs that wield some genuine intrigue (especially the acoustic cover of "You Will Lose Faith," and it should be stated that a NOFX acoustic album would be a promising endeavor), the majority of songs on here aren't essential listens. For those that want to collect every NOFX song no matter how rough or ridiculous, this is an easy buy, but for those that have been impressed and delighted by the band's last few remarkable albums, "Backstage Passport Soundtrack" is a noticeable step down.