10 Classic Releases from Fat Wreck Chords
Published Aug 04, 2015For 25 years, punk lifer "Fat" Mike Burkett and Erin Burkett have been cranking out the jams with their Fat Wreck Chords imprint. This year, the label is celebrating its quarter century of existence with a North American tour. Fat Mike recently caught up with Exclaim! about his long history as a pusher of pop punk, but we also thought it'd be a nice time to nerd out about some Fat favourites of our own.
With 345 releases under their studded belts, there's a ridiculous amount of content to wade through. As such, the list is by no means complete and any punk fan could come up with an entirely different set of releases to comprise their top ten. Still, it's a snapshot of Fat's formative years, which highlights a few of the interesting risks they've taken along the way.
Take a peek and listen along below.
Goleta, CA quintet Lagwagon have been with Fat for the long haul, and were the first band outside of NOFX to be signed to the label. 1992 debut Duh may be a landmark release for that reason, but it's arguably 1995's Hoss that sticks out the most amongst Lagwagon's rock-solid catalogue. Joey Cape's signature sinewy cries run elastic the whole record through, whether chastising fickle followers on "Kids Don't Like to Share," or twisting the melody of "O Come All Ye Faithful" around a narrative about a regretful lip wig on "Razor Burn." While "Sleep" looks forward to relaxed future days with your sweetie, the record excels in its rapid fire merging of melancholy octave harmonies with tales of youthful anxiety and obsession. Not to mention, as alluded to earlier, the pain of growing a really, really shitty moustache.
Great as Hoss may be, Lagwagon will be playing their equally applauded 1994 effort Trashed in full each night on the upcoming "Fat Wrecked for 25 Years" tour. Gregory Adams
No Use For a Name
Leche Con Carne
While No Use for a Name stood head and shoulders alongside their double kick pedal-employing melodic hardcore contemporaries, some of the late Tony Sly's greatest hits were his slowest. Just look at 1995's Leche Con Carne. While potent anti-abuse anthem "Justified Black Eye" and "Final Exit" are superbly speedy, the comparatively half-time "Soulmate" may be the strongest, most heartfelt pseudo-ballad his band laid to tape. Also excellent are the weeping minor key vocal melodies affixed to ecologically-minded stomp-out "Leave it Behind." Additionally, while a full throttle version of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" filled the requisite sped-up cover quota of the day, No Use for a Name went whole hog on Leche Con Carne by tacking on a secret medley merging the Cars with Green Day, Tony Basil, Twisted Sister and more. Like a meal of milk and meat, it made for an especially filling entry to Fat's ever-expanding catalogue. GA
Survival of the Fattest: Fat Music Volume Two
Though on the surface, picking a label sampler seems like a bit of a cheat, the second volume of Fat Wreck Chords' Fat Music series was ubiquitous to the pop-punk experience in the '90s. For one, it crammed 17 tracks onto a compact disc, ranging from label biggies NOFX to underdogs like Tilt. For those of you who hadn't yet gone back to vinyl, it catalogued 7-inch tracks from Me First and the Gimme Gimmes and Bracket, while also teasing forthcoming LPs from Propagandhi and Strung Out, and adding unreleased tracks from Snuff and Lagwagon. Add to that how Fat flipped the punk comp model with its $4 price tag, leading other labels to roll out their own series on the cheap henceforward. The digital boom a few years later would nullify the impact of the Fat Music series via free MP3s, but this was once the perfect way to take in a high-protein diet of Fat acts. GA
Less Talk, More Rock
Just as much a misnomer now as it was back then, Propagandhi's sophomore LP Less Talk, More Rock distilled a whirlwind of political info into several whipcrack cuts, and awesomely so. The Winnipeg trio tackled privilege of all sorts, proclaiming themselves the "Animal-Friendly, Anti-Fascist, Gay-Positive, Pro-Feminist" alternative to the norm. "Nailing Descartes to the Wall/(Liquid) Meat Is Still Murder" is full of vegan fury, lashing out against the abusive meat and dairy industry with its powerfully direct message: "Life's too short to make others' shorter." Meanwhile, blind patriotism was challenged in between the lightning quick licks of "...And We Thought That Nation-States Were a Bad Idea." Elsewhere, the band tunefully observes the "hetero-sexist tragedy" of gender inequality ("Refusing to be a Man"), and delivers dumb-dumb metal to mock the racist skinhead scene ("The Only Good Fascist Is a Very Dead Fascist"). Also, let's not forget that this early lineup featured John K. Samson singing of Prairies isolation on "Anchorless," a tune he'd later take with him when he started the Weakerthans. While later Propagandhi albums would up the ante with prog and metal complexity, the comparatively more straight-forward pop-punk approach of Less Talk, More Rock was still jam-packed with ideas. GA
Fuck the Kids
There's something so brilliantly freeing about NOFX's ultra off-the-cuff Fuck the Kids 7-inch. While the band had been plenty precise in their past (see Ribbed's RKL-styled technicality) and even more so just a few years later (see their epic and expansive, 20-minute masterpiece The Decline, which also made the list), Fat Mike's songs on Fuck the Kids were learned and recorded by the band in a few hours, and it shows! For proof, check the sloppy, three-chord/three-second title track, or how the sneering "Always Hate Hippies" nearly upends itself like a bag of moldy granola. But "I'm Telling Tim" cuts to the bone with its blitzed beats and punk scene-shaming lyrics, while the Elmer's huffing "Two on Glue" is a surprisingly sticky-sweet ode to young, fucked-up love. As essential as it is brief, Fuck the Kids is one of NOFX's many masterstrokes, for Fat or otherwise. GA
A Comprehensive Guide to Moderne Rebellion
Like Good Riddance's 1994 debut, For God and Country, sophomore follow-up A Comprehensive Guide to Moderne Rebellion packed plenty of politicking into the band's punk rock. But while the massive record offered much in the way of skewering national malaise ("Last Believer"), herd mentality ("The Sky is Falling"), misogyny ("A Credit to His Gender") and more, the Santa Cruz quartet had a good mind to bring in the occasional moment of emotional levity. "Lampshade," for instance, is a bittersweet blitz about trying your damnedest to be a party guy, while a cover of the Kinks' "Come Dancing" is another well-timed breather from the darker side of the LP. That said, this is the record that finds Good Riddance at its best when delivering old school hardcore punch-outs ("Trophy"), or socio-political songs propelled by near-mournful melodies and TNT-blast drumming ("Weight of the World"). It's the guide the band continues to follow to this day. GA
Short Music for Short People
The seemingly impossible idea that you could hear Blink-182, Poison Idea and the Muffs on one release became a reality when Fat released their unprecedented Short Music for Short People compilation in 1999. It was so stupid that it worked — 101 bands, each playing songs between eight and 39 seconds in length. The result was a compilation that fit practically every active punk band on one compact disc as they blasted through some short, sweet jams. GWAR, Bad Religion, Green Day, the Mr. T Experience, Black Flag, Spazz, the Misfits — Short Music's tracklisting is a sight to behold in and of itself. Factor in the thrill of blasting through so many different ideas, and there's no denying that Short Music was another winner. We're not even mad that it gave us adult onset ADHD. Josiah Hughes
Further proof that their creativity knows no bounds, NOFX just may have topped themselves with the release of The Decline in 1999.
An 18-minute political pop punk rock opera, it's truly unlike any other release. Consider it their very own Godspeed You! Black Emperor composition, but replace the apocalyptic soundbites with sneering Fat Mike lyrics that'd impress any anarchic teen ("Blame it on the greediocracy"). Musically complex, endlessly melodic and strangely unpretentious, The Decline is one of many riveting Fat Wreck releases vying to be deemed NOFX's masterpiece. JH
Against Me! As the Eternal Cowboy
Despite their dedication to the DIY, signing to Fat was still considered a sell-out move when Against Me! made the leap from No Idea for their 2003 effort Against Me! As the Eternal Cowboy. Looking back, it was a baffling complaint but almost seemed to prove Fat Wreck's legitimacy as a label. After all, they must be doing something right if people thought they were running a major. Cowboy is a fascinating document in Against Me!'s career as it shows the band's further movement away from B.O. scented folk punk toward a more pop oriented sound, with Laura Jane Grace's songwriting as incisive as ever. Since they were already dubbed sellouts, the band made a further leap onto Warner later on, though their place in the Fat discography is an important one. JH
Though most Canadians likely hold Chixdiggit's Sub Pop-released, self-titled debut closest to their hearts, KJ Jansen and co. have released some truly stunning and slick anthems in their tenure on Fat. And nostalgia be damned, Pink Razors is their best album. After all, who would've thought that a song referencing terrible frames-based web design ("Geocities Kitty") would still resonate as well as it does in 2015? Or how about "J Crew," a song we sang along to across the country despite not even having the clothing retailer here yet? The album's yet another collection of classic, timeless pop punk that sounds as fresh today as it did in 2005 or would have in 1995. JH