Friday, 18 November 2016

Book Review: Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories by NOFX and Jeff Alulis

Before we really get into this I feel like I should apologise if this is rubbish. I'm going to attempt a book review, something I probably haven't done for twenty years. The book in question is The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories by NOFX and Jeff Alulis.

I took the opportunity to read Hepatitis Bathtub during my flight to Florida last month. Downloading it onto a Kindle borrowed from my mum (she's going to get a shock if she ever decides to read that book) I was fully engrossed by this autobiographical account on the lives and career of one of the most influential and controversial punk rock bands of the past thirty years.

Each chapter of the book is a different member of the band's story of a particular time in their lives, written in a chronological order (or as close as possible to that). Fat Mike, Erik "Smelly" Sandin, Eric Melvin and El Hefe all give great accounts on a variety of events and are joined by former members of NOFX as well - all of which are incredibly frank, open and honest throughout the book. This was a big part in me struggling to put the book down and wanting to keep on reading to find out what happened next. Considering the amount of writing I do, I'm not actually a massive reader. If I do read something it's usually a comic rather than an actual book but Hepatitis Bathtub really had me gripped. I spent any down time on holiday reading the book, learning about the next crazy scrape NOFX would find themselves in.

Long time fans of NOFX will know of the crazy party animal association that comes along with the band, so like you were probably expecting the book to be filled with hilarious tales of wild nights and debauchery. And there is a lot of this; including a tale of Smelly accidentally kidnapping some punk rock royalty and El Hefe nearly going to jail for twenty years. There are also some really dark, disturbing and quite shocking moments in the book. Growing up in the 1980s California punk scene, and judging from many of these stories, NOFX are very lucky to not only to avoid being in jail but to be alive.

There are also some horrible recollections from the band member's lives away from the NOFX. There are some extremely graphic stories of drug and alcohol addiction, sex, bondage, molestation, rape, terminal illness, abuse and death. Reading through this book there were plenty of times where I'd stop and just think "fuck" this is crazy - and not in a good way. You have to give the band a massive amount of credit for the bravery shown in telling these stories, many of which had been long kept a secret from each other until the release of the book. Some of these stories have had lasting mental scars on the band for life and it would have been much easier not to tell these stories in this book.

Of course things come up to the present day and NOFX reflect on what being in the band has meant to them and how it has impacted their lives in a positive way. It was good to have such an uplifting ending to what (I can't repeat this enough) is a very dark book. These guys know just how lucky they have been to have had such successful careers. It's inspiring that these guys, despite all their flaws and issues, have gone out and lived the life they that have always dreamed of having.

Like I said I'm not an avid reader by any stretch of the imagination but I just could not put The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories down. It's a compelling read that really outlines what it was like being in a punk band in the late 80s and early 90s. These four guys have an amazing bond together that can clearly not be broken by anything. They are a family. They have really good times and really bad times but through it all they are still together and stronger than ever. I've read a few books on punk rock over the years but none of those even compare to this amazing read. I've seen a lot of people say it's a great read even if you're not a fan of NOFX or even punk rock music in general and I whole heartedly agree with that statement.