Review: NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories
NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories
Da Capo Press
Unlike the urban decay and existential alienation of New York City punk, Los Angeles brought a mixed bag of East Side Latino, Orange County suburbs, the Hollywood Hills and lost souls that made their way to the West Coast. The new sound was all over the place and everywhere at once. Bands like X, The Germs, The Dickies and even The Go-Go’s ushered in electro punk, rockabilly and new wave sounds. The next generation out West would be something altogether different: hardcore punk showed up, tightly wound like a fist. Long gone was the pogo stick dancing and mild pushing—now, there were beer bottle projectiles, broken bones and spit. It was a badge of honor to get your ass kicked at these shows. Bands such as Black Flag, TSOL, Fear and Circle Jerks ruled the roost. Somewhere swirling in all this debris were four local kids that couldn’t sing and barely played their instruments. They quickly emerged on the scene and would survive on adolescent charm, sheer will and plain, blind dumb luck.
NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and other stories compiles the misfit adventures of “Fat Mike” Burkett, Eric Melvin, Erik “Smelly” Sundin and Aaron “El Hefe” Abeyta. The book is an unforgiving, real and extremely honest account of their 33 years in the music business. All these years, and the band is still dealing the punk rock card: They have never signed on to a major label, never had a legitimate hit and, quite frankly, never received the respect they deserved. And they don’t fucking seem to care.
Oftentimes in print, rock legends get exaggerated, glamorized and hero-worshipped to the point that the stories come across as myths rather than as any rational reality. The stories in these pages are more like a must-watch cartoon show, that lights matches in the shadows of tragedy. Nothing seems to be safe or serious with these fools. If you have a problem with bodily fluids oozing, leaking, ejaculating, defecating, urinating or puking, this book is not for you. Serious subjects like child abuse, molestation, murder, rape, assault and addiction do not get sugarcoated in any way. All kinds of people show up in these stories and are quickly discarded via footnote.
Some of these chapters cover the tenderness of parenting, losing loved ones and the death of parents. Other chapters give you Fat Mike talking about inserting a butt plug, putting on a cock ring and attaching nipple clamps before boarding his flight to an S&M resort. He does this with the casualness of a normal person describing getting ready for work. These stories balance gross out with heart. You can’t stop reading. Long after you finish this book, their voices are still in your head. It’s not pretty and it’s not cute, and I guarantee that you will cringe—I also guarantee that you will enjoy these adventures. After all, how many books can you read where the first and last chapters are stories about drinking piss?
NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories wears you out. The book is absurd and disgusting—all the reasons I loved it. These lovable idiots get pushed through a meat grinder and somehow, some way, come out alive, whole and somewhat clean on the other end. It’s a punk rock inferno:Dante for the decline of Western civilization. NOFX are not going away anytime soon. Fat Mike still runs the highly successful Indie label Fat Wreck Chords and is happy doing so. The rest of the band are living their lives and patiently waiting to write stories for book two. –Russ Holsten