In June of 1999, Fat Wreck Chords released the optimistically ambitious Short Music for Short People, a novelty album featuring 101 bands spanning the punk rock spectrum in 30 second bursts. With grandfathers like Black Flag, Descendents, Circle Jerks, Misfits and Youth Brigade, to Fat mainstays Lagwagon, NOFX, Wizo and Strung Out, to fellow Epitaph Records mates Bad Religion, Pennywise, The Offspring and The Bouncing Souls, Short Music for Short People, as enjoyable as it is (and it really is), becomes exceptionally laborious when attempting to search for 1/101 of this record’s contents for just a 30 second reward. Lucky for me, I had a brief moment of clarity as a 19-year-old twit and picked up the compact disc version as well. That’s all gone as we wake up each day amongst the digital rays from our digital sun and pull up our digital socks and drive our digital stick-shift vehicles to our digital jobs to earn our digital wages and continue to get looked over for those digital promotions, but that’s neither here nor there.
As hilarious as it is catchy, and as arduous as it is enduring, Short Music for Short People is an aggressive achievement worthy of any open-minded listener. Also, you can learn how to make a bomb out of household objects on track 45, courtesy of The Offspring. Don’t try this at home, kids.
Certain albums carry unintentional weight heavy enough to destroy the basic foundation of a listener’s musical experience. Survival of the Fattest, the 2nd of the Fat Wreck Chords comps serves as one (of maybe a handful) of these crucial albums. Timing is everything… be it love, a career, no lines at your local record shop on Record Store Day, and what is deemed important say, in 1996 (when this album was released), wouldn’t necessarily wear the same badge of importance as it does in 2013.
You see, I was a budding teen when I acquired this album (of the compact disc persuasion at the 1996 Vans Warped Tour in Milwaukee), and its function as a concrete door-opening battering ram unleashed a lifetime of new and exciting music both directly and indirectly involving the 14 bands contained within it. My love affair with NOFX, albeit cooled to a slight simmer these days, was solidified with this album. The same goes for Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Lagwagon, Propagandhi, Good Riddance and a personal favorite, Strung out… essentially the soundtrack to my late teen years. From there, I would go on to collect any and everything NOFX-related (I’m still searching for 1994’s Don’t Call Me White 7”, although I’m not sure I’d really listen to it much these days), every Lagwagon album and 7″, and any colored vinyl reissue of early, classic Fat albums (mainly Propagandhi, Lagwagon and Good Riddance). I can either blame Survival of the Fattest, for this neverending quest of obtaining the “perfect” collection, or I can thank it for opening my eyes. I haven’t necessarily made up my mind yet.
(A few side notes: 1) This album holds so much adolescent importance that I bought a second, sealed copy just in case my first copy scratches or up and walks away. 2) This was also the album my buddy and I were listening to when we totaled his father’s 1988 Monte Carlo SS. Oh, how impressionable young minds can be.)