More Problems With Populism! NOFX vs. Green Day

01/08/2010 11:20 AM |


In what I believe is the current issue of The Onion, there’s a presumably non-satirical A.V. Club feature called “I Wanna Bite That Hand So Badly: 6 Songs About Hating the Radio.” (Oh, there are 21 songs online. Fun.) One of the tracks discussed is “Please Play this Song on the Radio” by NOFX. This has always been one of my top three or four favorite songs of theirs. It’s expertly crafted meta-pop-punk with a practical joke built in at the end. While referencing the formulaic nature of radio-ready pop music, it also embraces it by employing every trick it cites as a cliché, as if to prove a point: We could do this all day if we only gave a shit, but we don’t, so fuck you. It’s clever, it’s funny, its message is very clear, and when you factor in the litany of profanity thrown in at the end to mess with coked-up, pre-occupied radio DJs, it’s quite possibly the crowning achievement of 90s pop-punk.

Anyway, back to the thing in The Onion. It’s credited to multiple writers—Jason Heller, Steven Hyden, Josh Modell, Sean O’Neal and Keith Phipps—so I’m not sure who’s responsible for this:

“The shittiness of pop radio (and how bands turn themselves to shit in order to get airtime) was a running gag among punk bands throughout the 90s. The truth, of course, was that B-level bands like the jokey SoCal outfit NOFX simply weren’t good enough to be played next to Green Day.”

Oh, of course. Of course that’s the truth, right? Because the truth couldn’t possibly be that some bands have different goals and, god forbid, different principles than other bands, right? Right: the truth is that, like NOFX, Fugazi always wanted to be on the radio, and that if they were half as good as Soundgarden or Matchbox 20, then they may have had a shot, but they weren’t, because everything that’s on the radio is better than everything that’s not on the radio, because that’s just how it is.

This is preposterous and infuriating and we’re talking ourselves into a corner here, where counter-culture ideals are viewed as childish, and where the only way to measure the quality of a piece of art is to look at how many people like it. Please stop doing that.

13 Comment

  • The thing is, though, NOFX isn’t as good as Green Day.

  • Also: later in that blurb, the writer quotes the lines “Almost every is sung in time, and almost every verse ends in a rhyme,” without pointing out that they pronounce “rhyme” as “rim,” which is awesome and hilarious. And now I just assume some robot googled “lyrics to songs about the radio” without ever actually hearing any of them AND IT IS MAKING ME VERY SAD.


  • I’m going to go ahead and assume that neither of you have logged much time at the Warped Tour, though if I’m wrong, that’s kinda awesome and I wonder if you kicked me in the head at the fairgrounds in Northampton. Actually, maybe you have, because during a bad year at the Warped Tour, NOFX does start to seem kinda awesome. But then, under those circumstances so does Save Ferris. I mean, NOFX is fine, but devil’s-advocating, the Onion writer kinda has a point in that there were a whole lot of ska/pop/punk Warped Tour type bands in the mid-to-late nineties who were cheerily disdainful of “the radio” while stuck playing to the converted every summer. I mean, Mike, you list this song as one of NOFX’s three or four best. I like this song a lot but I don’t want to listen to it more than once every six months or so. To me, that is not a testament to some kind of punk elder statesmen. But I will say NOFX is surely at the top tier of jokey pop-punk bands who: are way better than Blink 182; nonetheless do not have a song as catchy as “All the Small Things,” which might not matter for Fugazi but yes, kinda does matter if you’re in a pop punk band; not as good as Green Day.

  • You actually are wrong about the Warped Tour thing, among many other things. Those being:

    1) To say NOFX is “stuck” anywhere is ridiculous. They’re insanely successful, very rich and very committed to something I think is far more important than a simple hook.

    2) But if you insist on talking about hooks, please see: Bob, Liza and Louise, Linoleum, Don’t Call Me White and The Brews. And those are just from the two records I know best off the top of my head.

    3) I would happily listen to this song every day.

    4) I don’t know why we’re talking about this, but NOFX are very clearly elder statesmen of the punk scene. I’m sure Green Day would say so too.

    5) Simply making some jokes doesn’t necessarily make you a jokey band, especially when those jokes appear right alongside political commentary. Sure, it’s political commentary that isn’t particularly nuanced or eloquent, but it certainly isn’t a joke.

    Aside from all of this, you’re ignoring the fact that it’s not actually even worth comparing the two bands because they worked with slightly different styles that had very different goals: Green Day did more of the Bay Area pop-oriented thing, while NOFX did the more thrashy, shredding skate-punk thing.

  • Wait, so it *is* okay to use rich/successful as a barometer of sorts? Because I thought that was the worst possible thing anyone could do!

    Maybe “stuck” is a little harsh (though I used it both in the past tense and referring to the large class of bands big enough to get on the Warped Tour but not big enough to stop doing the Warped Tour), and, no, I wouldn’t use radio play as “proof” that one band is better than another. But I totally get what the Onion dude is getting at by saying that: the “radio sucks!” was a pretty common message delivered by bands with semi-but-not-super catchy songs… to an audience that pretty much already thought the radio sucked.

  • As a barometer for determining how appropriate it is to use the word “stuck” when describing where a band is at in their career? Yes, of course.

  • man oh man! equals! and, the members of BOTH green day and NOFX would probably agree with you – i believe they’re friends.

    oh and, to people who might boldly deny this equality: listen to scavenger type, eat the meek (or, really every single song off of so long and thanks for all the shoes), linoleum, bob, the longest line, and lori meyers before having/making said argument…

    lori meyers – listen –
    scavenger type – listen –

  • I really thought that the biggest flaw in the comment was that, in 1991 when “please play this song…” was released, Green Day wasn’t on the radio either. In fact, at the time they had only released one shitty album and weren’t on any radar.

  • Anyone who says Green Day is better than NOFX is retarded

  • Oh yes, the punk debate. Everyone goes on about this for days but the fact of the matter is that NOFX calls their own shots. They write their own songs, on their own label, own all of their own publishing and answer to no one. That is why they are one of the best punk bands ever. People can debate music all day but you can’t debate a band that has been around for 24 years and had the amount of success they have had without being on a major record label or the radio.

  • They said essentially the same thing in the bookletfor Heavy Petting…., only they were telling MTV to leave them alone. They didn’t want to be mainstream poppy garbage. If you don’t know that about NOFX then you don’t know anything about NOFX.

  • neither NOFX or green day is as good as fugazi, radio time aside.