Various Artists -- Short Music For Short People

Various Artists
Short Music for Short People
Fat Wreck Chords, 1999

Compilations are rarely easy to review. More often than not, some bands or songs are markedly better than others, so there's almost always a sense of inconsistency or disjuncture and the more bands, the more pronounced the discrepancies in style and quality. Bearing this in mind, it is fairly remarkable that Fat Wreck Chords managed to cobble together a collection of 101 songs by 101 different artists that rarely misses a step, yet this is precisely the case with Short Music For Short People. Given Fat Wreck Chords' reputation for promoting poppier punk and hardcore bands, it is perhaps no surprise that this compilation, released at the dusk of the 1990s pop-punk boom, has a decidedly pop-punk flavor. Sure, there's a smattering of straight-up hardcore, horn-heavy ska, and other punkish sounds, but there's an astonishingly cohesive sound on this disk. The only instances where this consistency breaks down can be found in the handful of old songs resurrected seemingly for the sole purpose of meeting Fat Mike's quota of 101 different bands. Where the vast majority of bands recorded songs specifically for the compilation, a few anachronistic (though frequently stellar) luminaries do appear a decade or more after breaking up. Of course, this is also a gimmick record, and, accordingly, there's a fair amount of self-effacing, self-reflexive humor (directed at the restrictive brevity of the songs) in the lyrics as well as a few gags in the track listing (songs by Black Flag, White Flag, and Anti-Flag appear sequentially, for instance). The short song gimmick does wear a bit thin, however, and, regardless of how solid the songs often are, the disk lacks the replayability of less crowded record. One really pleasant aspect of the disk, though, is its ability to showcase a huge array of bands, most of which successfully convey their signature sound in the allotted time. You know, just what a good comp is supposed to do.

Track Listing:
(Given the unique nature of this record, I'll list the track lengths, too, for fun).

Track 1. "Short Attention Span" (Fizzy Bangers) - 0:08. The perfect introduction to a compilation of super-short songs, "Short Attention Span" is so short, it'll be over before you realize how catchy it is.

Track 2. "Anchor" (Less Than Jake) - 0:30. A toast to the punk scene the band loves delivered over chunky guitars and skankable horns.

Track 3. "Ketchup Soup" (Teen Idols) - 0:30. A Ramonesy love song about living in poverty featuring the band's trademark male-female harmonization.

Track 4. "All Comic Heroes Are Fascist Pigs" (Terrorgruppe) - 0:24. After presenting a catalog of classic comic heroes ranging from Mickey Mouse to Dick Tracy, the song descends into a chorus of what sounds suspiciously like "all cops are bastards!"

Track 5. "Overcoming Learned Behavior" (Good Riddance) - 0:27. A brief blast of Good Riddance's standard headbang-worthy melodic hardcore.

Track 6. "Quit Your Job" (Chixdiggit) - 0:24. For a song pleading with the audience to avoid starting a band, "Quit Your Job" is just catchy enough to make you go out, quite your job and start a band. Oh, the irony!

Track 7. "Ready" (The Living End) - 0:34. Distorted vocals and sped-up hillbilly strings make "Ready" worth a play or two.

Track 8. "Out of Hand" (Bad Religion) - 0:40. From the very first second of this track, the moment you hear the angry three-part harmonization, there's no mistaking that you're listening to Bad Religion. In other words, this rules.

Track 9. "Asian Pride" (Hi-Standard) - 0:30. If I didn't know Akihio Nanba, Ken Yokohama, and Akira Tsuneoka were from Japan, I'd've assumed they were a bunch of SoCal skaters attempting to fashion a pop-punk hoedown based on this song. You'll be dancing and looking for a partner to swing around, trust me.

Track 10. "Steamroller Blues" (Aerobitch) - 0:26. From Spain with vitriol, Laura Bitch makes Brody Dalle sound like a Spice Girl.

Track 11. "Doin' Laundry" (Nerf Herder) - 0:30. If you didn't speak English, you'd think this was a sweet song, but it's really a boy's confession of thinking about the object of his affection while masturbating.

Track 12. "Freegan" (Big Wig) - 0:32. A slightly heavier-than-average bit of activist-baiting, presumably directed at the more sanctimonious anarcho-punks.

Track 13. "Not Again" (Undeclinable Ambuscade) - 0:31. Mellow Dutch punk bordering on alt-rock.

Track 14. "Waste Away" (Fury 66) - 0:29. Furious, slightly metallic punk with sandpapered vocals.

Track 15. "The Radio Still Sucks" (The Ataris) - 0:28. Two decades after the Ramones lamented the death of sixties' pop radio, the Ataris remind us that things haven't changed.

Track 16. "Armageddon Singalong" (Unwritten Law) - 0:36. Bass-driven and bouncy, "Armageddon Singalong" is more singalong than eschatological, which is good, really.

Track 17. "Hearts Frozen Soil Sod Once More By The Spring of Rage, Despair, and Hopelessness" (A.F.I.) - 0:32. Remember when A.F.I. wasn't a trendy emo band? If not, play this. Sad, eh?

Track 18. "Farts are Jazz to Assholes" (Dillinger 4) - 0:32. This puerile, hand-clappingly, foot-stompingly catchy Minnesota punk track makes me miss my former home. It's D4 to a T.

Track 19. "Surf City" (Spread) - 0:28. Hard, fast, and loud with plenty of of chant-worthy bursts of "Go for it," "Surf City" would do well on a long distance runner's soundtrack.

Track 20. "Back To You" (Swingin' Utters) - 0:33. Solid cowpunk with just enough twang.

Track 21. "Outhouse of Doom" (Bar Feeders) - 0:34. Silly drunk punks, there's no such thing as an "outhouse of doom." At least that's what it sounds like you're saying through Scared of Chaka's distortion box.

Track 22. "Alienation" (Citizen Fish) - 0:33. Hook-heavy Brit punk gloriously devoid of the band's ska element.

Track 23. "Family Reunion (Blink-182) - 0:36. While not as painfully polished as some of the band's recordings, "Family Reunion" is fairly consistent with Blink-182's commercialized punk sound. Recipe for a Blink-182 song: sing "Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, tits, fart, turd, and twat" four times, followed by "I fucked your mom" and a faux-outtake in which one sings "And I want to suck my dad, and my mom, too! Oh, is thing this on?" And make it catchy. Really catchy. This is the perfect song to play for someone who thinks all punk rock is, is a bunch of swearing for the sake of swearing.

Track 24. "Mirror, Signal, Wheelspin" (Goober Patrol) - 0:28. Somehow, this song sounds both desperate and totally danceable.

Track 25. "Saturday Night" (Kill Switch) - 0:32. Much more urgent a "Saturday Night" than that of the Bay City Rollers.

Track 26. "Bedroom Windows" (Enemy You) - 0:24. Snotty skatepunk with some sweet ahhs in the background.

Track 27. "Sara Fisher" (No Use For A Name) - 0:30. "Sara Fisher" is one of the better bits of melodic hardcore on the disk.

Track 28. "The Ballad of Wilhelm Fink" (Green Day) - 0:32. Probably the least punk song on Short Music, "The Ballad of Wilhelm Fink" is basically a folk-drenched Billie Joe Armstrong playing solo. Not bad.

Track 29. "Delraiser Part III, Del on Earth" (Consumed) - 0:27. Thoroughly satisfying Britpunk about slackerdom.

Track 30. "Told You Once" (Mr. T Experience) - 0:11. MTX might fit more bubblegum and "fucks" in these eleven seconds than Blink-182 does in their 36.

Track 31. "Randal Gets Drunk" (Lagwagon) - 0:28. Some solid ska-tinged punk courtesy of one of my favorite bands.

Track 32. "Fishfuck" (Gwar) - 0:32. For some reason I'm surprised by Gwar's musical competence here. I'm not surprised by the ichthyologically-oriented paraphilia they sing about.

Track 33. "Howdy Doody in the Woodshed" (The Dickies) - 0:33. Only the Dickies could take a cherished, if occasionally creepy, childhood icon, place him in perverse circumstances, warble about it, and make you want to sing along. Fucking brilliant.

Track 34. "Long Enough to Forget You" (Samiam) - 0:30. A metafictional bit of melodic hardcore.

Track 35. "Erik Sandin's Stand-In" (Dogpiss) - 0:33. Not only is this one of the more eminently singalongable songs on the Short Music comp, it has a bluegrass banjo that somehow makes the song even punker.

Track 36. "We Want The Kids" (59 Times the Pain) - 0:21. I love Swedish punk, always have.

Track 37. "Warren's Song Part 8" (Bracket) - 0:31. Not quite emo, but getting there.

Track 38. "No Fgcnuik" (Nomeansno) - 0:31. A finger-snapping lounge lizard opening erupts into a furious explosion of snotty, lightspeed punk.

Track 39. "I Like Food" (Descendents) - 0:17. Milo's impassioned celebration of alimentary joy never gets old.

Track 40. "Triple" (Dance Hall Crashers) - 0:33. A thirty second ska punk song about writing a thirty second song for Fat Mike.

Track 41. "Don Camero Lost His Mind" (Guttermouth) - 0:29. This is what would happen if punk bands wrote radio ads for shitty retail stores.

Track 42. "X-99" (Limp) - 0:38. Uh-oh, nah-nah-nahs, finger snapping, and hey-heys; that's a recipe for getting something stuck in your head. And, boy, this will.

Track 43. "Faust" (Jughead's Revenge) - 0:31. A chant-ridden song about being oneself rather than, say, signing a pact with the Devil ala the tragic figure sharing the track's name.

Track 44. "Deny Everything" (Circle Jerks) - 0:25. Another classic that never grows old.

Track 45. "Hand Grenades" (The Offspring) - 36. This is what might happen if Ted Kaczynski wrote hardcore punk rock.

Track 46. "Mike Booted Our First Song, So We Recorded This One Instead" (Mad Caddies) - 0:28. More metafictional, self-reflexive ska punk.

Track 47. "Union Yes" (The Criminals) - 0:34. Adenoidal doesn't even begin to describe the vocals on "Union Yes."

Track 48. "Dirty Needles" (Screeching Weasel) - 0:28. Well, this is Screeching Weasel for you: references to hard drug abuse, a dig at hippies, and thoroughly catchy poppiness.

Track 49. "300 Miles" (One Man Army) - 0:29. Imagine the Swingin' Utters swallowed Tom Waits.

Track 50. "Klawsterfobia" (Strung Out) - 0:30. Some pretty solid melodic hardcore from a pretty solid melodic hardcore outfit.

Track 51. "You Don't Know Shit" (Youth Brigade) - 0:35. Take Minor Threat's "Straight Edge" and play it backwards.

Track 52. "Doin' Fine" (Groovie Ghoulies) - 0:27. The Groovie Ghoulies are one of those bands that take the Ramones' formula, barely alter it, and totally kick ass. Indeed, "Doin' Fine" will get you off your ass and onto the dancefloor as fast as anything off of Leave Home.

Track 53. "John For The Working Man" (Tilt) - 0:31. Cinder Block has always been one of my favorite vocalists; play this once and you'll see why.

Track 54. "A Prayer For The Complete & Utter Eradication of All" (Spazz) - 0:26. This upliftingly-titled ditty is about as jarring a transition from the Ghoulies and Tilt to the Damned as anything I can imagine. Power violence as a bridge between pop-punk and goth-punk? Weird choice, Fat Mike.

Track 55. "It's A Real Time Thing" (The Damned) - 0:31. I fucking love the Damned, so it's no surprise that Dave Vanian's creepy musings on temporality and the band's eerie gothic ambiance pleases me a good deal.

Track 56. "All My Friends Are In Popular Bands" (88 Fingers Louie) - 0:31. This is pretty much exactly what you'd expect to hear on a late nineties pop-punk compilation. Archetypal stuff, this is.

Track 57. "I Hate Puck Rock" (D.O.A.) - 0:31. Joey Shithead has one of the greatest voices in all punk and this song showcases it perfectly.

Track 58. "Fun" (Pulley) - 0:31. The fact that Scott Radinsky sang lead vocals for a punk band while simultaneously pitching in Major League Baseball will always amuse the living shit out of me. Oh, and "Fun" is a pretty damn good song, by the way.

Track 59. "To All The Kids" (The Vandals) - 0:29. The Vandals channel spirit of sixties pop radio on this doo-wop-tinged ode to outcasts and freaks of all varieties. Delightful.

Track 60. "Thirty Seconds to the End of the World" (Pennywise) - 0:32. One of my favorite tracks on the disk, "Thirty Seconds to the End of the World" is an apocalyptic sing-along for the ages.

Track 61. "Get A Grip" (No Fun At All) - 0:27. Ah, even more melodic hardcore from Sweden! (Jag älskar Sverige).

Track 62. "Blatty (Human Egg) - 0:32. I want to hate this song, but I totally dig it.

Track 63. "I Got None" (All) - 0:29. A bit jazzy, a bit hardcore, a hundred percent All.

Track 64. "See Her Pee" (NOFX) - 0:32. I can't help but find Fat Mike singing about urolagnia over a backbeat that sounds as if it was lifted from Phil Collins's "In The Air Tonight" to be underwhelming.

Track 65. "F.O.F.O.D." (7 Seconds) - 0:31. 7 Seconds' contribution to the whole self-refelxive metafictional thing. You know, writing a song about writing a song for the CD.

Track 66. "Blacklisted" (Rancid) - 0:27. "Blacklisted" is reminiscent of Rancid's Let's Go-era sound. Good stuff.

Track 67. "Chandeliers And Souvenirs" (Dieselboy) - 0:29. Hard-edged punk with quasi-emo lyrics dripping with nostalgia.

Track 68. "Your Kung-Fu is Old . . . And Now You Must Die!!" (Adrenalin O.D.) - 0:31. The track's concluding gong makes what would be a merely good song great.

Track 69. "My Pants Keep Falling Down" (Frenzal Rhomb) - 0:32. Silly Australian punk.

Track 70. "I Hate Your Fucking Guts" (The Queers) - 0:30. Happy-sounding misanthropy from America's happiest misanthropes.

Track 71. "Comin' To Your Town" (D.I.) - 0:26. The opening riff to "Comin' To Your Town" is eerily similar to the Ramones' "Judy is a Punk."

Track 72. "Spray Paint" (Black Flag) - 0:33. Another classic from punk's vaults.

Track 73. "Rage Against the Machine Are Capitalist Phonies" (White Flag) - 0:28. Well, they are. The quivering vocals here are pretty kickass, too.

Track 74. "Bring it to An End" (Anti-Flag) - 0:28. Facile call-and-response sloganeering never sounds bad coming from these Pittsburgh boys.

Track 75. "Not A Happy Man" (Avail) - 0:35. An acoustic guitar and handclaps provide the backdrop for the speaker's tale of sitting in a cherry orchard without having access to the coveted fruit.

Track 76. "Old Mrs. Cuddy" (The Real McKenzies) - 0:31. Bagpipe-driven Celtic punk that would put the Dropkick Murphys to shame.

Track 77. "Traitor" (Agnostic Front) - 0:31. Note to self: do not piss off Agnostic Front.

Track 78. "Life Rules 101" (Down By Law) - 0:31 Dave Smalley sounds rather wimpy here.

Track 79. "Wake Up" (Radio Days) - 0:32. The xylophone on this track reminds me of the sort of music my younger sister used to play during her Little Mermaid Soundtrack-playing days. It's like "Under the Sea" goes punk.

Track 80. "Too Bad You Don't Get It" (Useless I.D.) - 0:34. They had me at the cowbell solo.

Track 81. "Humanity" (Poison Idea) - 0:35. Today's hardcore has nothing on these guys, nothing.

Track 82. "In Your Head" (Men O'Steel) - 0:25. Montreal punk with some really interesting (in a good way) vocals.

Track 83. "Supermarket Forces" (Subhumans - U.K.) - 0:32. An anarcho-punk attack on the local effects of large-scale chain stores.

Track 84. "Tribute to the Mammal" (Buck Wild) - 0:23. Chugging guitars and snotty vocals = punk.

Track 85. "Pretty Houses" (Lunachicks) - 0:28. Theo Cogan's lyrics on "Pretty Houses" may be the best out of all 101 performances on the disk.

Track 86. "The Band That Wouldn't Die" (Dwarves) - 0:38. Self-aggrandizing sleaze punk. What else would you expect?

Track 87. "Like a Fish in Water" (Bouncing Souls) - 0:34. A bizarrely polka-ish song that sounds like a Gogo Bordello outtake.

Track 88. "Turn it Up" (Happy Trigger) - 0:30. A half-minute's worth of metallic hardcore with irritatingly hair metal-ish background vocals.

Track 89. "Madam's Apple" (One Hit Wonder) - 0:32. In case you couldn't make the leap upon reading the song's title, "Madam's Apple" is One Hit Wonder's "Lola" or "Dude, Looks Like A Lady."

Track 90. "Staggering" (Hot Box) - 0:28. How, exactly does one growl mellowly?

Track 91. "DMV" (2.0) - 0:29. More middle-of-the-road melodic hardcore.

Track 92. "Big Fat Skinhead" (Snuff) - 0:34. Solid Britpunk.

Track 93. "Pimmel" (The Muffs) - 0:34. You've always wanted to hear Kim Shadduck sing in German? Now you can!

Track 94. "Mr. Brett, Please Put Down Your Gun" (H2) - 0:30. A silly hardcore tableau in which the Bad Religion/Epitaph founder goes on a shooting spree.

Track 95. "Wake Up" (Bodyjar) - 0:33. About as complete a song as you'll find on the disk.

Track 96. "Eyez" (Nicotine) - 0:26. Ska-punk with some killer vocals I promise you won't soon forget.

Track 97. "Another Stale Cartoon" (Satanic Surfers) - 0:31. Have I mentioned how much I like Swedish punk?

Track 98. "I Don't Mind" (Ten Foot Pole) - 0:32. A poppy celebration of wanderlust and traveling for the sheer joy of being on the road.

Track 99. "Welcome to Dumpsville, Population You" (Caustic Soda) - 0:24. Frantic and fun, Caustic Soda's entry is worth waiting through the first 98 songs on the disk.

Track 100. "NY Ranger" (The Misfits) 0:28. I'm guessing "I Want to Be A New York Islander" had too many syllables? And, by the way, this does not sound like the Misfits at all. Besides, they're from Lodi, NJ. That's Devils territory, man.

Track 101. "The Count" (Wizo) - 0:31. A nerdy song that counts the thirty seconds of recording the band promised to deliver to Fat Mike. Somehow, despite it's stupidity, it's really catchy.


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