As is typical with every holiday season, labels scramble and claw one another for the music-buying consumer's attention by flooding record store endcaps with special-edition, greatest hits and rarities compilations from the most successful artists on the roster. Competing for such precious shelf or bin space this holiday season will be Epitaph, which will find its NOFX "greatest hits" disc, the aptly-titled The Greatest Songs Ever Written (By Us), nestled somewhere amongst the flurry of Oasis and Pearl Jam retrospectives.
Still, it's a rather safe bet that almost none of the other greatest hits collections making a year's-end appearance will feature snide commentary, self-deprecating album sales statistics and press clippings of the band's nastiest reviews. But that's precisely what NOFX's 24-page booklet reveals --- and a bit more.
The revelations on the 27-track CD are along the lines of the more predictable, serving as an overview of a band whose legacy as an underground punk institution has stood firmly over two decades of bullshit scene politics, the commercialization of its peers and the myriad factions and offshoots of the genre which have been both laudable and laughable.The gathering of tracks in itself is an excellent cross-section of the band's discography, but they're not presented in chronological order, ascending nor descending. While that's not necessarily the requisite modus operandi for such greatest hits collections, sequencing the material in some logical order always makes for a more cohesive listen.
Still, it's not as if the entire disc is scatterbrained --- there really is an excellent assortment of material that's always within one track's reach from any point on the release. From the seminal "Linoleum" and trumpet-tinged "Bob," to the brooding, metallic early days of "Shut Up Already" (circa. 1988, from Liberal Animation), the largely Bad Religion-inspired double-timed skate punk cuts aren't hard to miss and are fully represented here (with the exception of some of the band's earliest work, released before their Epitaph signing). And, furthermore, they're not easy to beat either.
Imitations be damned, NOFX's punchy anthems, in some ways, has served as a primer and/or inroads for the budding independent-leaning consumer who's seeking something that's not yet played-out and passé. And much like the teenager attending its first NOFX gig in 1986, the 2004 iteration of the underground's youth can still feast their virgin ears on NOFX --- easily accessible via this greatest-hits compilation --- like its steaming fresh out of the oven.
By Waleed Rashidi