Pump Up the Valuum (Epitaph)

Anyone familiar with NOFX's snarling, melodic punk, delivered four chords at a time and backed by that ubiquitous, absurdly fast double kick drum that's been used on every Lookout! album since 1985, knows what to expect from the group. The new NOFX record is so brazen in its marriage of smirking, wise-ass intellect and sophomoric humor that it actually rhymes "vas deferens" with "a pair of huge cans." This dichotomy has fueled a punk career spanning countless albums and compilation appearances; additionally, the band has had a huge influence on every band that's appeared on the Warped tour.

The NOFX secret weapon: a brilliant, unparalleled sense of humor. Here, as the "vas deferens" line indicates, frontman Fat Mike tends to fall back on weak potty humor puns -- in the songs "Louise" and "My Vagina," he rhymes lots of words with "clit," a task much better left to lower-tier peons with less imagination (see Blink 182). The drug-related tunes (especially "Herojuana") also fall short, but the anti-music-industry rant "Dinosaurs Must Die" builds great momentum -- "Kill the big five," Fat Mike demands, referencing the five remaining major record companies -- even if it does stroke NOFX's own ego too overtly in the process.

But inventive, unexpected humor will always save NOFX from mediocrity. On "What's Wrong With Parents These Days," Fat Mike admonishes his folks for having sex in public and listening to all his old Misfits albums. "Clams Have Feelings Too (Actually, No They Don't)" features a debate on the moral quandaries of seafood consumption. And "Thank God It's Monday" gleefully points out that the members of NOFX, who don't really work for a living, couldn't care less what day of the week it is. As a wise man in Blink 182 once noted: "No one should take themselves so seriously/What's my age again?"