When Fat Mike of NOFX phoned up Frank Turner and asked him if he wanted to do a split covers album the answer was a quick YES! West Coast Vs. Wessex finds NOFX filtering five of Turner’s songs through their lens while Turner pays back the favor with his version of five NOFX songs.
What I like about West Coast Vs. Wessex is that both artists picked more obscure tracks for the album’s tracklist. It would have been easy to take on each others biggest hits but instead picked songs they thought they could make the most interesting. I believe with that perspective this record succeeds.
NOFX does their punk thing with Turner’s songs especially when they take an already intense track like “Worse Things Happen At Sea” and rev up the amps, guitar and drums. They also put a ska groove to “Thatcher Fucked The Kids” which works well, while the song plays right into NOFX’s political side. Overall, NOFX give the five Turner tracks here a different light and they never seem out of their range.
Where this split gets really good though is when it is time for Frank Turner to step up to the mic. The most well known song on this album is NOFX’s “Bob,” which Turner gives a country acoustic fixing that is great. The harmonica combined with its slower pace had me hearing this song with such a different ear. “Eat The Meek” has a brand new alternative rock vibe to it while the closing “Falling In Love” was one of the most enjoyable transformations on the record, as its dark and Nick Cave vibe arrangement had me going back to hear the original because I couldn’t believe the difference.
If you like these artists, this split record will be something you will want to hear. It also is important to note that West Coast Vs. Wessex is not like the output you may be used to hearing from Fat Mike’s cover group, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. Those records are great but are really laid back. Both NOFX and Frank Turner take extreme care with each others songs here and that sincere admiration of the art gives West Coast Vs. Wessex the repeat value you would hope for.
Key Tracks: “Ballad Of Me And My Friends” (NOFX) / “Bob” (Frank Turner) / “Falling In Love” (Frank Turner)
Artists With Similar Fire: Billy Bragg / The Menzingers / Pennywise
-Reviewed by Christopher Anthony