Producer: Fat Wreck Chords
Welcome to “Music to Eat Lunch to,” a chance for me to share a healthy music obsession with a wider audience than the one assembled in my living room! Hopefully I can spark flames of interest in your hearts for the rich and meaningful tracks that grace too few shelves across the country. Punk! Ska! Metal! All these and more will be up for review in the weeks to come, my friends. While I aim to provide commentary and insight into recently released albums by bands of particular interest, I though it fitting to bring in an older, much loved CD to kick things off. Behold the wonder that is Fat Music Volume VI, Uncontrollable Fatulence.
Don’t be frightened by the name, dear readers! The compilation is produced by Fat Wreck Chords, a company spearheaded by the frontman of California punk band NOFX, known (largely) as Fat Mike. Hence we have Fat Wreck Chords, whose responsibility is to find and fund minor but promising punk and ska bands, spreading the music throughout the world. In Fatulence, one of many ‘Fat’-themed compositions, we basically have the many faces of NOFX themselves, all displayed individually and to varying degrees. What is superficially a collection of unrelated songs is actually an incredibly insightful look into the main band, NOFX.
We have our hardcore modern punk in Propagandhi, a Manitoban band notable for playing the Calgary G8 protest of 2002 and allowing fans to come up on stage and sing their own lyrics. Prop have done well for themselves but are less than satisfied because of the simple reason that they are real Punks — looking for a level of social justice that just won’t appear in our lifetimes. But they aren’t giving up. Back to the Motor League is a song that must be explained to newcomers to be appreciated, so just keep in mind that these guys use sarcasm to the extreme to make a point. Quite enjoyable.
The second pillar of the album is the ska angle, represented best by the amazing six men who are named the Mad Caddies. There’s nothing more complementary than punk and ska, I have to say. It’s like soup and bread (or soup and crackers if you swing that way), but in a slightly more exciting way. Brass instruments abound. A better mood enhancer there is not.
Next up is an uncharacteristically slow but soulful recording from Lagwagon, twisted metal-leaning sounds from “Strung-Out,” the deep and pointed tones of “Rise Against” and the always entertaining “Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies.” This is the beauty of Fat compositions, the wide array of talent and speciality. While other mixed tapes tend to sound samey, Fatulence flies from one musical theme to another, at once hard and serious and the next track lofty and light hearted. Such is NOFX’s own contribution in Mattersville:
There’s a place where some of us choose to live
a gated community cops can’t come in
a neighbourhood for punks over the hill
we’re spendin’ our golden years in Mattersville
It’s all a perfect mish-mash, really, of related, but unique styles of music. You may love five or six of the songs and hate the rest, but I really feel that’s the charm of a well-picked comp, it forces you to have an opinion. Fatulence will give you something to love, something to skip over and something else to think about. It is the first, easy step to accepting other forms of music: the consequential addition of radical songs to the known. Whether you put it on as a NOFX and Me First fan and an hour later feel exactly the same way, at least you’ll come out with a deeper appreciation for them both. What Fat Mike does with Falutence, is to show us all the related faces of his own music; how and why it all comes together. When it comes down to it, that’s one of the best reasons to listen to an entire CD — to get to know your favourite band, and to know the thought process behind the music.
Uncontrollable Fatulence has reigned in my CD case for much the same reason as Hunter Thompson’s published collection of letters (i.e., Fear and Loathing in America: The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist) does on my bookshelf. I want to know the full story behind the entertainers in my life. So get to know NOFX, you won’t regret it.
Thompson, H. (2001). Fear and loathing in America: The brutal odyssey of an outlaw journalist. Simon and Schuster.