How often does the leader of one of your favorite bands ask you to do a split album? Where his band covers your songs? Singer-songwriter Frank Turner found himself in that situation last year, when Fat Mike of NOFX asked if he wanted to do a split covers album. West Coast vs. Wessex shows NOFX filtering five of Frank Turner’s songs through their singular sensibility, with Turner doing the same on five NOFX songs. But these aren’t simply double-time versions of Turner’s folk-punk tunes or slow, acoustic reworkings of NOFX’s iconic SoCal punk anthems. Both NOFX and Frank Turner took time to play with the possibilities each other’s music presented. They also put a lot of thought into the songs they chose to cover. Both groups really wanted to songs that presented an opportunity to create something unique, and bring something to the song that really made it their own.
For Frank Turner’s side, the result was a tracklist that pulls more or less from deeper in NOFX’s discography. NOFX classic “Bob” being the exception, Turner transforms into a wistful country song. “Perfect Government” is joyously turned into a barroom singalong, along with a punked up “Scavenger Type,” the post-hardcore “Eat the Meek,” and a spare, haunting “Falling in Love.”
On the NOFX side, their climactic take on “Substitute” could’ve fit on Punk in Drublic. “Worse Things Happen at Sea” simmers with an ominous portent. The jaunty “Thatcher Fucked the Kids” sounds like a companion to NOFX’s “Philthy Phil Philanthropist.” “The Ballad of Me and My Friends,” lilting and bittersweet in Frank Turner’s original, goes balls-out here. “Glory Hallelujah” sounds like a lost track from Fat Mike’s stage musical, Home Street Home.
There is no loser on West Coast Vs. Wessex. The Frank Turner-Fat Mike Mutual Admiration Society has produced 10 hooky reimaginings of each other’s music. The novelty may pique listeners’ curiosity, but the songs will keep them coming back.