One look at the list of albums which came out in 1994 reveals that it was a red letter year for punk rock (Offspring’s Smash, Green Day released Dookie, Bad Religion released Stranger Than Fiction and NOFX released Punk In Drublic), but what’s even more impressive in NOFX’s case is that Punk In Drublic‘s success happened on a totally grassroots level. Conspicuously, while all of the records that those other bands released were on the charts somewhere, Punk In Drublic went Gold in both the US and Canada without entering the charts even once; it just sold and did so with little to no help (Gurewitz had put his company on the line to release and promote Smash, and the lion’s share of their efforts were going into that) from anyone other than NOFX itself, and the touring that the band did to promote the album.
Punk In Drublic wasn’t the typical punk album of the time, either. It’s important to note that, by the time the album hit in 1994, NOFX had already been playing together for ten years which (other than Bad Religion) made them both a little older and more experienced than the rest of the bands on the scene, and that fact shows in Punk In Drublic. While The Offspring and Green Day were still singing pretty simple songs about teenage kicks and tomfoolery (Green Day had masturbation and girl trouble through songs like “Longview,” “Basketcase” and “She,” The Offspring had gang and gun play as well as trouble with girls on “Come Out And Play,” “Bad Habit” and “Self Esteem” respectively), NOFX was already beyond that and, while still willfully juvenile at times, Punk In Drublic is marked by some pretty stupendous songwriting; dig below the poppy sheen of “The Cause,” for example, and listeners will find lines like:
“It’s a scheme, a dream, a barterine
We want everyone to think the same
Because you know what you know is right
And you feel what you can’t ignore
And you try so hard to point the blame
Ashamed – what are we doing this for?
“The cause – we’re just doing it for the cause.”
That kind of sentiment throws a whole lot of distance between Punk In Drublic and Smash, Dookie and Let’s Go and it’s only one example on the record. Also unlike those other albums (which tended to be very plain-faced and upfront), Punk In Drublic plays to a couple of different audiences on a couple of different levels. While “The Brews” will make kids pogo ’til they’re sore with its’ crunchy guitars and talk of “screwin’ chicks as long as we’re home by Saturday mornin’,” it’s also a scathing satire of numbskull skinheads and boot boys and their intolerance of people with different religious backgrounds and minorities. A similar sort of dialogue runs through “Don’t Call Me White” although it comes from a very different angle as Fat Mike rails against those who judge a book by its’ cover (telling line: “Accept responsibility for what I’ve done, but not for who I am”), but enlarges the possibilities of it by playing the race card in the title lyric.
The result is really, really funny and made all the better because not everyone will get the joke; in fact, if they don’t get it, they’ll likely be infuriated due to their own stupidity and the fact that they didn’t get the joke. The album and the songs on it are actually pretty brilliant that way – especially when one considers that the most raucous songs are also the fluffiest (see “Punk Guy (Cause He Does Punk Things)” and “Jeff Wears Birkenstocks?”) and the combination of those two groups of songs acts as the security blanket which covers those moments when Fat Mike opens up and actually talks about himself; perfect examples are moments like the juvenile erotic play of “Lori Meyers” and “Fleas” – both of which are probably more personal and honest than any fan could imagine.
So was anyone aware of just how against the grain Punk In Drublic really ran at the time of its’ release? Some fans may have known (most likely, those who had been around for a while had a clue) but, to the fifteen-year-old kid in the pit who weaseled his way into a show on a fake ID, it was just some of the best, most inflammatory shit he’d ever heard; stuff he liked and his parents hated, but couldn’t exactly crucify because NOFX was straddling a line between the mainstream and counterculture steadily enough that no one could topple them. That balance has been holding up through NOFX’s albums for years, but it had never resonated so well or struck a chord so popular as it did on Punk In Drublic.
Now, twenty years after it was originally released, Punk In Drublic has proven to have the last laugh after getting under-promoted upon its original release by being the album which continues to exert a lot of influence and interest on the current stable of young punk rock bands coming up. In order to continue spurring that interest and the band’s influence too, Epitaph and Fat Wreck jointly reissued NOFX’s catalogue in a vinyl box set in celebration of NOFX’s thirtieth anniversary in 2013 and now Punk In Drublic is being reissued on vinyl on its own (with a CD copy of the album included, instead of a download code) by Epitaph. Some critics may contend that the release is too soon (the box set was a big deal), but this critic says that the timing is perfect. Sure, the box is great, but it’s also pretty expensive; this reissue keeps the vinyl sound quality but offers it at a more reasonable price which means young punks who can’t afford the big price tag affixed to a box set will still be able to get a great-sounding copy of one of NOFX’s best albums.
The twentieth anniversary vinyl reissue of Punk In Drublic is out now.