[12 March 2010]
The tale of Fat Wreck Chords is not exactly a Horatio Alger story, but Fat Mike’s Beverly Hills upbringing aside, it would take wantonly permissive parentage or quite a trust fund to support an unsuccessful label for 20 years. Throw stones of an appropriate size in whatever glass-paned punk house you live in, but you can’t say that Fat Mike (and the entire Fat family) hasn’t hustled hard to get Fat Wreck where they are today. Founded initially to release the first NOFX 7”, the success of Fat Wreck has defined a sound that carries as much worldwide name recognition as SST or AmRep before them. It also is pretty notable in that most of their early signings are still on the label, like Lagwagon. NOFX were easier to keep around, as Fat Mike still fronts the band. Looking at their early releases for Swingin’ Utters, Rancid, 88 Fingers Louie and the like, the House That Mike (and Erin) Built is one of the few labels that could be accurately described as seminal. The Wrecktrospective is a three record set that commemorates their 20 years, sprawled over three cds that contain a Fat Greatest Hits, a second of demo rarities, and a third compiling the entire Fat Club 7” series. All for $15. Can’t really argue with that.
Perusing the first disc of “Fattest Hits”, you’ll be treated to a who’s who of the punk set. Everyone from Propagandhi to Sick Of It All have tenured on the label and had pretty good results. As you pogo down memory lane, you’ll be reminded of how great Bracket was, get Chixdiggit back on your radar, and wonder what the Mad Caddies have on Mike that he continues to release their records. See, it’s not just a retrospective, it’s a learning experience. Fat has always been a tastemaker, releasing records from Rise Against and Against Me! that proved to be a huge stepping stone in each band’s respective notoriety. Fat Mike is no fool, knowing full well that having a happy band leave with a record in the Fat catalog almost always pays off dividends when major labels suck the life out of them down the line and they release crappy product. Or maybe it hits big; either way is a win for the Fat Team.
Disc Two compiles a gang of demo material for the obscurists and collector nerds in our midst. The Loved Ones and American Steel are standouts, especially the early version of Sons of Avarice. On a broader scope, Propagandhi reassert their role as the North Of The Border NOFX and their Canadian compatriots in The Sainte Catherines weigh in with a great version of Hau Wag die Scheiss. The ladies also do well on disc two, with The Epoxies, Soviettes and Star Fucking Hipsters all throwing some female energy in the mix. Some “who the hell?” eyebrows were raised in the direction of Zero Down, but further investigation reveals that the band was the last project Jim Cherry from Strung Out and Pulley helmed before his passing. Good stuff. Concerned older heads can rest assured that you also get some pretty quality Screeching Weasel and Dickies stuff for your dollar.
Disc Three closes the proceedings with all of the songs from the Fat Club 7” series in one handy digital cornucopia. More AmSteel, some MxPx, a triple shot of Lawrence Arms and twenty others: all good things for your earhole. No recycled screen-printed covers here, either. The whole kit and caboodle is wrapped in a swank four-panel gatefold with some choice liner notes and nostalgic recollections from most of the parties involved here. As an added bonus, the booklet folds out to a poster that commemorates the cover of every Fat release to date. It’s quite an impressive history. Whether or not Fat Wreck is to your listening taste, you have to give credit where credit is due: Wrecktrospective plainly asserts Fat Wreck as the Motown of Punk Rock.