In the same year that NOFX release a reworking of one of their most popular songs (which wasn’t actually a single) as the lead single for a new, upcoming album, the band’s sixth full-length, Heavy Petting Zoo, turns 25.

Opening with the short, punk burst of “Hobophobic (Scared of Bums),” the following track, “Philthy Phil Philanthropist,” offers ska verses reminiscent of Millencolin’s Life on a Plate, whilst other instruments thrown into the mix give it that predictable unpredictability that makes NOFX’s music so engaging.

Originally released at end of January 1996, the album is comprised of 13 songs of various speeds and degrees of heaviness, and it’s that variety which keeps things interesting. For example, the slow-and-heavy “Hotdog in a Hallway” is sandwiched between punk rock blisters “Bleeding Heart Disease” and “Release the Hostages.”

A few songs have dark, metallic riffs, but Fat Mike’s trademark vocals always cut through before anything becomes too dour. Hearing him sing “You are so beautiful to me” on “Whatever Didi Wants” is a welcome treat, as are the quieter moments which pepper the album.

Heavy Petting Zoo boasts the rough-and-ready-but-not-too-rough-on-the-ears quality which runs through the best ’90s punk like Blackpool through a stick of rock. All throughout, crunchy guitars share a seesaw with harmonies that evidence the band’s undeniable ear for melody. Listening to it today whets one’s appetite for their upcoming release. 

Roll on, February.

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