We’re just about a month away from the beginning of a pretty monumental run of celebrations in honor of Fat Wreck Chords 25th anniversary. The label was founded by NOFX frontman Fat Mike and his now-ex-wife Erin a quarter centruy ago, at has been at or near the epicenter of the punk movement in the United States ever since. It’s fair to say that this very website would either not exist or would be a very different place if not for the influence of Fat Wreck Chords on a great number of the editors here (particularly this one).
In honor of Fat Wreck’s silver anniversary, we’ll bring you a bunch of exclusive coverage of the genre-defining label’s history and the bands that have called Fat Wreck home, if only for a few fleeting moments. Coming up first is a Spotify playlist of 25 essential tracks from 25 years of Fat Wreck Chords. It’s worth mentioning that it is almost humanly impossible to limit one’s self to merely 25 great or influential songs from 25 years of a record label’s career. Hell, it’s pretty tough to narrow down a list of the 25 greatest NOFX or Lagwagon songs, and their but two of the bands on the lengthy roster. So, this is not intended to be the “25 Best Songs” from Fat Wreck, because lists like that are subjective and click-baity at best. Instead, we’ve got two-dozen-and-one songs that span the length of Fat Wreck’s existence, highlighting some of the greatest bands in the last quarter-century of American punk, as well as some of the most overlooked bands and some of the up-and-coming acts that Fat continues to put out.
Enjoy our playlist below!
1. NOFX – “Bob”
Okay, so if you read this post earlier, you know I had a whole big long story about my dad and about why I was including “Please Play This Song On The Radio” on my list, and I proceeded to get eviscerated in a few places. So, as a result, I’ve substituted the live version of “Bob.” Yes, “Bob” is from an Epitaph album, but I Heard They Suck Live!! is Fat, so I’m counting it. Plus, it’s my dad’s name. So there. Happy now, internet?!?
2. Propagandhi – “Ska Sucks”
Again, perhaps not an obvious choice, but I listened to How To Clean Everything more times than I can count for a few years there, and also, because…well…there’s a story here too. This time it’s like 1998, and I’m either a freshman or sophomore at Northeastern University, and I’m taking some bullshit Public Speaking course. The assignment was to do an informational speech where we teach our audience about a particular topic of our choosing. Given that it was 1998 and it wasn’t lame to like ska at that point (shut up…it seriously wasn’t lame yet), that became my topic. And yet, because I’m “edgy” or whatever, I started my speech with the opening lines to “Ska Sucks.” Also, because I thought it would be funny, I opted to substitute “expletive deleted” in place of the word “fuck.” My classmates thought it was funny. My teacher subtracted points from my grade because it “wasn’t authentic enough.” God I hated that class.
3. No Use For A Name – “Straight From The Jacket”
I truthfully could have opted for any song from Leche Con Carne, because start-to-finish, it’s still one of my favorite albums by anybody ever. I opted for “Straight From The Jacket” because I’ve always appreciated the point of view that Tony Sly took in writing the song. A lot of times when dealing with the subject of divorce, people tend to write from the perspective of the kid that’s the product of the broken home. Here, we find Sly taking on the persona of the new stepdad who shows no qualms about admitting that he’s “not your father or your friend.”
4. Lagwagon – “Island Of Shame”
Yet another example of a situation where I could have lifted essentially any song from any Lagwagon release, as I’m of the opinion that Joey and the gang have never really written a bad song. “Island Of Shame” is a perfect example of of what made early Lagwagon so great. Brutally intense while still maintaining a focus on melody. Fairly topical subject matter given the recent Supreme Court ruling, as well.
5. Bracket – “2RAK005”
If you’re like me, your first experience to the shear greatness that was the early Fat Wreck Chords catalog was through the first few compilations they produced, specifically Fat Music For Fat People. This might be the perfect Bracket song, which is weird given that it’s a “non-album single.”
6. Face To Face – “Disconnected”
What can I say about Face To Face that I haven’t said four trillion times on the pages of Dying Scene over the years? I’m sure I’ll think of something… Anyway, “Disconnected” isn’t my favorite song on Don’t Turn Away (that would be “I’m Trying), but it goes without saying that it’s the song responsible with launching my eventual favorite band to probably the peak of it’s popularity, subsequently making it the reason I know of the band in the first place.
7. Strung Out – “Rottin’ Apple”
“Rottin’ Apple” makes the list for a few reasons. Much like “Island of Shame” above, I think it’s a quintessential early Strung Out song from an album that’s almost impossible to choose a favorite song from. Also, it makes an appearance on the Survival Of The Fattest compilation, which, as you’ll see shortly, remains one of my favorite albums, certainly one of my favorite compilation albums (aside, maybe, from the Singles movie soundtrack).
8. Tilt – “Libel”
I always felt like Tilt never really got the respect that they deserved. Cinder Block was a great damn great lyricist and a an even better frontwoman. Maybe the scene-at-large wasn’t quite ready for a presence like Cinder Block. Hell, maybe it still isn’t. Pretty rad that they’ll be at the Fat Wreck festival show in San Francisco…just wish they were doing the whole tour!
9. Diesel Boy – “Titty Twister”
As I’ve said previously, Survival Of The Fattest remains one of my favorite albums of all-time. It’s a near-perfect compilation that represents probably the best line-up that any label had really ever had. I’d never heard Diesel Boy prior to Survival…, but I fell in love with fast pace and juvenile delinquency of “Titty Twister” from first listen. The band’s Wikipedia page refers to “Titty Twister” as an “instant classic,” and it is exactly right.
10. Screw 32 – “Don’t Let Them Take You Alive”
There are a few shows in the earlier years of my show-going career that were supremely important in shaping and defining my love of punk music. One of them took place downstairs at the legendary Middle East nightclub in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was the Groovie Ghoulies, The Queers and Screw 32 supporting The Mr. T Experiences. Still one of the better bills I’ve ever witnessed, and it was my introduction to Screw 32, who were a bit of an outlier in the otherwise pop-punk lineup. Their performance hooked me in early, and I became a huge fan of their all-too-short run as a band.
11. Rise Against – “Last Chance Blueprint”
Revolutions Per Minute is another one of those albums that’s almost impossible to pick a best or favorite or quintessential song from because it’s just so strong from top to bottom. Dying Scene editor extraordinaire Lauren Mills told me that she’s always been partial to “Last Chance Blueprint,” so here it is!
12. NOFX – “The Marxist Brothers”
Like a lot of bands from all different genres in the music scene (see: The Dixie Chicks), NOFX’s lyrics took a much more pointedly political tone during the eight-year tenure of George W. Bush. The band produced plenty of grade-A, razor sharp critiques of Bush and his cronies. Fat Mike’s brilliance has always been in his ability to take the piss out of people who take themselves seriously, and this cutting indictment of the neo-liberal crowd is particularly brilliant. Maybe I’m just partial to it from spending years in and around university sociology departments…
13. No Use For A Name – “Not Your Savior”
I said above that Leche Con Carne remains one of my favorite all-time albums. More Betterness is a close second in the NUFAN canon. There are a lot of Tony Sly-penned songs that took on particularly sad, or even haunting, new personalities after his untimely death. This one is a total stomach punch now.
14. Propagandhi – “…And We Thought Nation-States Were A Bad Idea”
For a long time, I always kinda thought Propagandhi had become Fat Wreck’s Canadian version of Bad Religion, at least in the way that they motivated the listener to pick up a book or three (even if two of those three books were a dictionary and a thesaurus).
15. Against Me! – “Don’t Lose Touch”
I’ll admit it…I was never much of a teenage anarchist. As such, I didn’t really develop a healthy respect for the first couple Against Me! albums until much later. “Don’t Lose Touch,” then, was the song that first really hooked me in. For reasons that I don’t quite get, Searching For A Former Clarity doesn’t appear on Spotify, but that’s kinda okay, since AM! are a better live band anyway.
16. The Loved Ones – “The Bridge”
Keeping on that theme, I kinda missed The Loved Ones when they first hit the scene. I’ve obviously since learned that Dave Hause is a goddam hook-and-melody writing powerhouse. I feel like Hause and I had identical musical upbringings, and that listening to him (either solo or with The Loved Ones) is like listening to all of my favorite albums from about 1990-2002 wrapped into one. “The Bridge” is such a killer song.
17. Swingin’ Utters – “The Librarians Are Hiding Something”
In some ways, I feel embarassed to have only put one Utters song on this list, but as I’ve said, it’s almost humanly impossible to put together a comprehensive Fat Wreck playlist in a 25-song span without someone getting the shaft, and in this case, that’s the Utters. I opted for a newer song because A) I fucking love it and B) I think the post-hiatus Utters are stronger than the pre-hiatus Utters, and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise. Well, maybe not fight…but vehemently disagree with.
18. Tony Sly – “Devonshire and Crown”
I almost can’t come up with anything to write here, because it makes me so sad. I’ll let Tony’s songwriting speak for itself on this one.
19. Teenage Bottlerocket – “Headbanger”
Okay, time to give us a little pick-me-up. I really thought TBR were a perfect Fat Wreck band for the new era, so I’m kinda flummoxed that they left for (what I’m assuming are the) greener pastures at Rise. Teenage Bottlerocket are such a damn fun band, particularly live, and “Headbanger” is arguably the funnest of the fun. That shit can’t be good for your brain.
20. Get Dead – “Kerouac’s Teeth”
I admittedly hadn’t heard of Get Dead before they signed to Fat and put out Bad News. Their bio on the Fat Wreck website starts with “(t)here aren’t a lot of bands like Get Dead around these days,” and that couldn’t be more correct. Their sound is a little bit “our of left field” for the Fat roster, and that’s arguably what makes them great. Man can’t live on Les Pauls and Marshall stacks alone, and “Kerouac’s Teeth” is a perfect breath of fresh air.
21. The Real McKenzies – “The Tempest”
Okay, maybe the Utters AND the McKenzies got the shaft. The McKenzies are easily the most overlooked band on the Fat Wreck roster. All due respect to what the Dropkick Murphys morphed in to, but the McKenzies are the kings of authentic bagpipe-infused punk rock.
22. Bad Cop, Bad Cop – “Like, Seriously?”
If there was any question as to how instrumental Fat Wreck will be in its second quarter-century in business, Bad Cop, Bad Cop will take your doubts and kick them squarely in the balls. Not Sorry is such a throwback album, and sorta jump-started what I think was a little bit of a down era in true pop-punk. Easily an “album of the year” contender.
23. Me First And The Gimme Gimmes – “Rocket Man”
What list of quintessential Fat Wreck songs would be complete without at least one song by Me First And The Gimme Gimmes? Because they typically put out theme albums, it’s tough to gauge which era of the Gimmes is best. While I really, really dig the latest diva-inspired album, I think their cover of “Rocket Man” is near-perfect.
24. Lagwagon – “Obsolete Absolute”
For whatever reason, I tend to get at least mildly nervous about whether or not albums by bands in their third decade are going to be any good, or at least whether or not they are going to be able to keep up with the intensity and inspiration of their earlier works. Lagwagon’s latest, Hang, might be my favorite album of theirs, and has been since the first listen. “Obsolete Absolute” is a complete-and-total monster…all six-minutes-and-eleven-seconds of it.
25. NOFX – “My Orphan Year”
I said above that Fat Mike is at his best when his tongue is planted firmly in his cheek and he’s taking the piss out of his target. I was wrong. He’s at his best when he’s been totally and completely honest about personal subject matter, which, admittedly, is rarely the case. This song is another stomach punch. Too bad he only gives a shit 60% of the time (or is it that he gives 60% of a shit 100% of the time?)…he coulda really been something!