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It’s been a while, but entertainment editor John Turnbull is back with the best in new music, checking out recent releases from California punks NOFX, other California punks Green Day, Aussie rockers Airbourne and local legends The Black Sorrows.

New Album from an Old Artist

NOFX — First Ditch Effort

Formed back in 1983 in Los Angeles by singer Fat Mike and guitarist Eric Melvin, NOFX have released a dozen albums, toured extensively and remain one of the most successful punk bands never to sign with a major label.

While early albums established a hardcore fan base, the 1994 release of Punk in Drublic saw a wave of major label interest, but the band told the labels where to shove it and kept on doing what they were doing.

Over 20 years later, NOFX are still doing what they want and it seems that what they want to do now is release a kick-ass punk album that reminds you why you liked punk music in the first place. It’s got catchy songs, smartass lyrics, crunchy surf guitars and attitude to burn.

Thematically, First Ditch Effort covers a lot of ground, from getting old (Six Years on Dope), the challenge of getting sober (California Drought) and the self-loathing that comes with age and ongoing bad behavior (I Don’t Like Me Anymore). While this may all sound like a bit of a downer, the relentlessly upbeat musical backing means that First Ditch Effort can’t help but make you smile.  

It’s not all gold, of course, with the rather obvious Dead Beat Mom and the PC-baiting Bye Bye Biopsy Girl, along with the could-go-either-way free expression of I’m a Transvest-Lite. Last, but not least, special mention must go to Oxy Moronic, a lyrically clever attack on Big Pharma, which goes to show that even if you don’t agree with a band’s politics you can still enjoy their music.

Standout tracks: Oxy Moronic, I Don’t Like Me Anymore, California Drought, Six Years on Dope

Sample lyric: ‘Why does being nice to people seem like such a chore?’ (I Don’t Like Me Anymore)

Verdict: 8/10 — some punks get better with age…

New Album from an Old Artist

Green Day — Revolution Radio

Getting together only a couple of years after Fat Mike and friends, Green Day formed in Berkley, California in 1986 by singer/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong and bassist Mike Dirnt. After riding the mid-90’s punk wave to international superstardom, Green Day spent the next 20 years touring the world, releasing an album every couple of years and having the occasional issues with substance abuse and freak outs.

Released following a four year break from the back to back 2012 releases Uno!, Dos!, and Tre!, Revolution Radio sounds a lot like the Green Day of old with most of the passion drained out. Kicking off with the whisper-loud-whisper Somewhere Now, the album meanders down familiar punk roads, producing a couple of decent songs like the title track and Bouncing off the Wall, but more that sound exactly the same as track one.

This may conceivably be a problem with the CD I bought or my car stereo, but the dynamic of many tracks is such that you have to crank up the volume to hear the lyrics as the song starts, only to be blasted by a ludicrously loud Green Day chorus moments later. If anyone thinks this is because I’m getting old, you may be right, but that didn’t stop me playing NOFX turned up to 11 when I had the house to myself.

If you love Green Day, chances are you already own this album. If you think their best songs are ballads like Time of Your Life and Wake Me Up When September Ends, this probably isn’t the album for you. For everyone else… do whatever you want. It’s the punk thing to do.

Standout tracks: Revolution Radio, Bouncing Off the Wall, Forever Now

Sample lyric: ‘Here’s to the middle of the road, at least it’s better than here.’ (Too Dumb To Die)

Verdict: 6/10 — and some punks don’t

Album I Expect to Suck

Airbourne — Breakin’ Outta Hell

If you think AC/DC get a bit cerebral at times, you should love Airbourne. Formed  in Warrnambool in 2003, the band released debut album Runnin’ Wild in 2007, propelled by a great title track and also some other songs. Sophomore album No Guts, No Glory came out in 2010 and, while it didn’t exactly set the world on fire, it did secure the band a support slot with Iron Maiden, which is about as metal as it gets.

Maiden’s influence could be heard on 2011’s Black Dog Barking, with an increase in soaring choruses and guitar histrionics adding some texture to the usual Airbourne balls-out rock. Unfortunately, it seems this influence was transitory, as Breakin’ Outta Hell is classic Airbourne, in that it sounds like a moderately talented AC/DC cover band trying to write their first originals. 

There are a number of similarities between Breakin’ Outta Hell and the second album from British contemporaries The Darkness, One Way Ticket to Hell… and Back! Both albums feature 1970’s influenced power rock, mindless lyrics about girls and having a good time and an almost complete lack of self awareness that they both look and sound ridiculous.

If you have the ability to switch off your brain, then It’s Never Too Loud For Me and the Kiss-lite It’s All For Rock ‘n Rollhave a basic headbanging appeal, but the weight of clichés slowly becomes overwhelming. Of particular note is Down On You — a single-entendre tribute to oral sex that made my generally open-minded wife shake her head in disbelief.

Standout tracks: It’s Never Too Loud for Me, It’s All For Rock ‘n Roll

Sample lyric: ‘Put me to the test, I’m better than the rest.’ (Down on You)

Verdict: 3/10 — just… not very good

Ch-check it out…

The Black Sorrows — Faithful Satellite

Possibly destined to be known as the Australian band who were never as big as they should have been, Joe Camilleri and the Black Sorrows have been making music together since 1983. Formed from the ashes of Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons, the bands lineup has been fluid over the years with Camilleri remaining the only consistent member.

Early Black Sorrows albums were heavily influence by Zydeco music, but over the years his style has gradually expanded to include elements of folk, blues and soul. While the band have never really been all about singles, they have had success with tracks including Harley & Rose, Snake Skin Shoes and classic Aussie driving song Chained to the Wheel.

Faithful Satellite is the 17th album from The Black Sorrows and reflects a band comfortable in their own skin. The songwriting is self-assured and at times confessional, capturing slices of Australia with the skill of Paul Kelly, and the musicianship is tight and accomplished.

If you’re a fan of good Australian music, I recommend you check out Faithful Satellite.

Standout tracks: Raise Your Hands, Land of the Dead, Love Is On It’s Way

Sample Lyric: ‘Every time I think of you baby, all I see is loss and pain.’ (Land of the Dead)

Verdict: 7/10 — great music for quiet contemplation or dinner with friends

Enjoy what you've just read? John Turnbull's books are now available on Amazon and Kindle. For about the price of a cup of coffee you can take a journey deep into the disturbed psyche behind columns including Screen Themes, Think For Yourself, New Music Through Old Ears and JT on NXT. There’s supernatural thriller, Damnation’s Flame; action/romance, Reaper; black comedy, City Boy; and travel guidebook, Bar Trek: Europe. Check 'em out!

You can also follow John on Twitter @blackmagicjohn.

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