Various Artists - A Fat Comp: A Fan-Made Tribute To Fat Wreck Chords (Cover Artwork)

Various Artists

A Fat Comp: A Fan-Made Tribute To Fat Wreck Chords (2015)


Curated by Dallas's Dang! Records as a companion to the forthcoming A Fat Wreck documentary, A Fat Comp: A Fan-Made Tribute To Fat Wreck Chords delivers 30 covers of songs from Fat's mid to late 90s golden period. A better subtitle might have been "Bands You've Never Heard of Playing Songs You Haven't Listened To For Years".

As the "fan-made" aspect of the title suggests, the list of contributors isn't exactly loaded with household names - Armchair Martian and Big D And The Kids Table are arguably the biggest draws here. Jon Snodgrass's distinctive voice makes the former's take on Lagwagon's "Whipping Boy" a clear highlight, although it's not new, having appeared on My Records's Happy Meals Volume 3 compilation way back in 2002. I could live without Big D's take on Propagandhi's "Ska Sux", but if you have a high tolerance for relentlessly goofy ska, you might disagree.

Of the other familiar names, the Shell Corporation's gallop through Wizo's "Raum Der Zeit" is worth a listen for the word perfect German alone, and Punknews favourites Mikey Erg and Scotty Sandwich turn in an appropriately snotty rendition of Bracket's "2RAK005". Chicago's Much The Same return after a long hiatus to take on Lagwagon's "Making Friends", which is right in their melodic punk wheelhouse.

Most of the Dang! roster chip in. Sic Waiting smooth a few too many rough edges off Tilt's "Libel", Gunner's Daughter rock up Propagandhi's (and later the Weakerthans) "Anchorless" a bit, and Samuel Caldwell's Revenge's excellent take on "Fruitless Fortunes" by the Swingin' Utters provides a welcome deviation from the classic Fat sound. From Parts Unknown and Allout Helter tackle Lagwagon's "Coffee and Cigarettes" and "May 16" respectively - the latter is one of those songs that instantly transports you back to the late 90s, and it's a joy to hear anyone playing it.

Most of the contributors play it safe, not straying too far from the original blueprint - right down to the snippet of Sudden Impact dialogue at the start of Dutch Nuggets' cover of Good Riddance's "Fertile Fields". Those that do try something different have variable success. Rude King's ska version of Screeching Weasel's "Cool Kids" doesn't really work, but Brazil's Abraskadabra throw some horns at NUFAN's "Not Your Savior" to see if it sticks, and perhaps surprisingly it kind of does. It seems churlish to complain that there's a degree of sameness among these covers of classic Fat songs because, if you're listening to this, that's almost certainly what you want.

That instantly recognisable Fat sound makes this a nostalgic listen. For the most part, the tracklisting sticks to Fat's signature bands, minus NOFX. Even where it deviates into slightly less obvious bands, the songs chosen are immediately familiar. Never bought a Wizo album? Well, you'd still know "Quadrat Im Kreis" (the "yeeeah, woooah" song from the Survival Of The Fattest comp). Not a fan of Hi-Standard? But you remember "My Sweet Dog" from Physical Fatness. Incidentally, those lyrics sound even worse sung in a North American accent. What about Diesel Boy? Whether or not you could name a single other song of theirs, I bet you could still sing every word of the gloriously dumb "Titty Twister" from Fat Music For Fat People, the label's very first compilation. In fact, fully a third of the tracks on here appeared on various Fat Music comps - you don’t need to be a hardcore Fat devotee to know virtually every song.

On the downside, the sequencing could have done with some work to mix things up a bit - at one point the sequence of covers goes Lagwagon, NUFAN, Lagwagon, NUFAN, Lagwagon, NUFAN, NUFAN, and two of those NUFAN songs are "Not Your Savior". I love Joey Cape and co as much as the next 30-something punk, but fully one fifth of the album is Lagwagon covers. And the No Use covers too feel a little redundant after 2013's rather wonderful The Songs Of Tony Sly. A few more leftfield choices would have been nice, maybe a Snuff cover or two. On that note, kudos to Yankee Brutal for choosing Consumed.

"Not Your Savior" isn't the only duplicate. There are also two versions of Propagandhi's "Haillie Sellasse, Up Your Ass", with Mike Scott's acoustic take probably the pick. And No Matter's version of "2RAK005" is competent enough but has little to distinguish itself from either the Bracket original or the previous Erg/Sandwich cover.

Setting aside the sequencing and duplication, the whole affair generates an immediate air of nostalgic goodwill. Listening to this brings back memories of hearing these songs played live, of discovering new favourite bands through cheap label compilations, and of trusting that pretty much any record with the Fat logo on it would be up your street. None of these covers are ground-breaking, and most don’t come close to the originals, but listening to them is sure to put a nostalgic grin on your face.