The Decline is a 18+ minute long punk rock song by NOFX about the socio-political state of America. I was lucky enough to see this song played live, in its entirety, last weekend, when NOFX played in Denver. Even though the song was originally recorded 9 years ago, I believe that it is even more relevant now, in post 9-11 America, than when it was written.
The Decline consists of 8 main sections (by my count, feel free to disagree), tied together with interludes, along with an intro and an outro. Each section addresses a different issue or issues. My approximate breakdown is as follows (once again, my opinion, feel free to disagree, feel free to correct if you are in NOFX):
1. Conformity and ignorance
2. Gun Control (plus a little bit on religion and dumbing down America)
3. Drug Prohibition and Punishment
4. War Profiteering/Corporate Control of Government
5. Depression, Despair and Suicide
6. Media Control, Brainwashing, Apathy
7. Aquiescience to the current problems
8. Why we need to act (it's a conclusion of sorts)
Each section has it's own distinct style and sound.
As for it's overall message and stance, it says the country is royally fucked up, and addresses the specific problems more than NOFX's other polical works. I think it is more impactful because it calls you out on your apathy, unlike many other political songs.
The climax of the song, in my opinion, is around the 14 minute mark. The lyrics for that part are:
And so we go, on with our lives
We know the truth, but prefer lies
Lies are simple, simple is bliss
Why go against tradition when we can
Admit defeat, live in decline
Be the victim of our own design
The status quo, built on suspect
Why would anyone stick out their neck?
I think this part throws all the issues in the listeners face, and forces them to address them in some fasion.
As far as the sales of the record itself, proceeds were donated to a bunch of human and animal rights organization, which is consistent with the message of the album. This just adds to the evidence that the motivation of this song was emotional above all else.
A criticism that could be made is that The Decline is really a bunch of songs that were glued together with interludes. My response is how else can you make a long song without it being boring and repetitive? This actually could be considered the punk rock equivalent of a classical multi-part work, like Handel's Messiah, or a long progressive rock work, like Pink Floyd's The Wall.
Another criticism could be that it doesn't offer solutions, and is a bunch of bitching. First, I disagree. The solution is to stop being apathetic, and do something about it.
The reason I feel that as a solution is more effective than more specific solutions, is it doesn't come across as preachy, nor does it become irrelevant as long as the issues remain relevant.
Finally, I think it's just a fun and energizing song. It's one of my favorites to sing along to. It was also one of my first punk album purchases, and the first single I ever bought.
If you haven't heard it, find a copy and listen to it. It is a great song
Maybe if I feel inspired, I'll do a piece on Operation Ivy next week.