Fat Mike has never been one to shy away from the epic or theatrical. See 18 minute long punk rock masterpiece ‘The Decline’ as an example, or the NOFX’s frontman’s controversial appearances as Cokie, his twisted alter-ego who turns his darkest secrets into song. So whilst the step from bassist to Broadway might seem unlikely for many, with Mike it makes a lot more sense.
Speaking of his influences he says “Ever since I saw Rocky Horror when I was 8, I’ve been intrigued by musicals. Well, not all musicals, just the ones that break the mould.“ Whilst stylistically ‘Home Street Home’ isn’t pulling up any trees (it has a distinctly NOFX-ish flavour) it certainly doesn’t pull any punches either, with themes that verge from the shamelessly x-rated to the disturbingly dark.
Mike has always created songs which sound big and are intelligently structured, reaching their crescendos with wonderful craft and impeccable timing. And he’s brought one or two friends along to help him achieve his vision… well a whole army of them actually. From Matt Skiba to Frank Turner, members of various bands from the Fat Wreck roster and touchingly a contribution from the late Tony Sly of No Use For a Name.
‘Monsters’ gives you a taste of what’s to come with an opener sung from the perspective of a teenage girl who’s been subjected to child abuse. It features Matt Skiba singing a menacing lullaby featuring the line “don’t you wanna give a goodnight kiss to daddy?” Many of the tracks of the album actually have a much more upbeat feel than this but rarely do they stray from the themes which Mike relishes – the dissident and strange.
‘Fecal Alcohol Syndrome’ is about exactly that (“she stayed drunk now he’s a punk with a retarded brain”) before we get to ‘High Achievers’ which is a wonderful paean to the great narcotic throughout history and why drugs are basically just really great. Then you’ve got ‘Gutter Tarts’, an absolute blinder of a track about prostitutes and rent boys.
It has to be said that whilst musically ‘Home Street Home’ has got the quality you would expect from a guy who has produced some of the best known anthems in punk history for generations, it is perhaps lyrically where it is weakest. My love for NOFX stems partly from the fact that I know Mike is actually a great songwriter somewhere beneath all the beer and lesbians, and when he’s not trying to be overtly political.
But here, everything is very in your face and obvious. The songs are sung either to make those who are already subversive feel good about who they are, or to offend people who are offended by offensive things. I guess in this respect it taps into the core traditions of punk rock – to draw a line in the sand separating us from them. I can appreciate that doing this is still as important as ever, but I can’t help but feel like it’s a little shallow. The continuously naughty themes do get a bit worn out and the soundtrack lacks real depth of dialogue.
That having been said, I had great fun listening to ‘Home Street Home’ and I have got to say than anyone who’s a massive NOFX fan, like me, will get a lot out of owning this album, because it’s essentially a new NOFX album sung by lots of different people. As a soundtrack to a musical I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve actually seen the stageshow, and if aforementioned band have never been your bag this ain’t going to change your mind.
‘Home Street Home’ by Home Street Home is out now on Fat Wreck Chords.
Words by Alex Phelan (@listen_to_alex)