James, Kieran (2010) Living the punk life in Green Bay, Wisconsin: exploring contradiction in the music of NOFX. Musicology Australia, 32 (1). pp. 95-120. ISSN 0814-5857
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Official URL: http://www,informaworld.com
Identification Number or DOI: doi: 10.1080/08145851003794018
This paper studies song lyrics from three mid-period songs written and performed by Californian punk band NOFX. I discuss NOFX’s skilful exploration of contradiction in the three selected songs, two of which are character studies of a single young male individual. The questions that the songs pose in true dialectical fashion (but do not definitively answer) include: Is it possible to maintain the carefree existential existence of the archetypal punk rocker in the face of the constraints imposed by suburban life and the voices of middle-class moderation? Can a Jewish gang in Fairfax, Los Angeles simultaneously affirm group self-identity, defend its turf, and practise its (marginalized) religion? Can a young man enjoy Christianity because it makes his life ‘seem less insane’ whilst simultaneously taking control of his life and not being a Christian sheep? NOFX poses these questions in admirable dialectical fashion, allows us to reflexively examine the issues involved, and form our own conclusions. The band rarely descends into moralism but moral values underpin NOFX’s worldview. Above all, NOFX tries to maintain a sophisticated but precarious ‘both/and’ rather than ‘either/or’ approach to each one of the questions posed in this abstract. Clever lyrics, which highlight the contradictions that a punk rocker must face whilst living in suburban America, have become one of the band’s most loved and most enduring themes.
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