Various - Survival of the Fattest (Cover Artwork)


Survival of the Fattest (1996)

Fat Wreck Chords

Possibly the best of the thus-six Fat Wreck compilations, Fat Music #2, released in 1996, hearkens back to Fat's earlier days. Many of the bands that are now household names sound a bit young and unpolished, but that makes the album all the more interesting.

The CD opens with Hi-Standard, the Japanese trio, covering "California Dreamin'." It's very, very, very good, and easily competes for best song on the album. The breakdown and guitar solo is killer. It's followed by "Justified Black Eye," a fairly typical fast No Use song. It's closer to their hardcore roots than much of their newer, poppier stuff.

"Nick Northern" by Snuff is one of the gems of the album. It's a torrent of organs, horns and harmonic guitars with a ridiculously infectious bridge. Propagandhi follows the act well with "Nation States," an awesome 2:20 political statement. "Publically subsidized, privately profitable, the anthem of the upper tier, puppeteer untouchable... you can tell by the smile on the CEO, environmental restraints are about to go." Did I mention that it's a really, really good punk song? The thought-provoking political commentary is balanced with plenty of "Can you fucking believe/what a stupid world" for happy punk sing-alongs.

"Sleep," by Lagwagon isn't the best they've ever done, but the creative cleverness is there, although is gets a bit lost amid the awkward tempo changes. Diesel Boy follows with "Titty Twister." It's straightforward party punk with funny lyrics: "Fuck you I hate you's all she said as she slapped my face and spit beer on me, and my pants are falling down." We've all been there. Good Riddance follows with "Mother Superior," a decent three-minute song that demonstrates the potential that they have built on in their excellent recent releases. Next, Tilt offers "Libel," a not-quite-punk entry on which Cinder sounds way more operatic than punk. They have done better.

The next song is Wizo, and all you can say about that song is "hahahaha..." I guess it wouldn't be so bad if they weren't singing in German. But Wizo doesn't have to be funny -- "Quadret Im Kreis" (their song from Fat Music#4), for example, is well-crafted and beautifully melodic, and is also in German. This, however, is funny. When I played it for my friend, he laughed, "Dude, they're singing funny talk." I love it, though. Strung Out follows with "Rotten Apple." They sound young, but they're obviously talented, and the drumming is sick.

The NOFX song, a cover of Don McLean's "Vincent," is the best cover NOFX has ever attempted. Unlike throwaway punk covers, which are just fast rehashings of old songs, NOFX shakes things up on this one, cutting out a superfluous verse (it's still the longest song on the album), and adding a ridiculously catchy guitar riff that's not in the original. They do the original justice and give birth to a solid slab of kick-ass pop-punk at the same time.

Hi-Standard is back again with "Wait for The Sun" (remember the days when Fat didn't have enough bands to put only one song of each on their compilations?). This well-crafted song drives along in 6/8 time, a punk rarity. Lagwagon returns with "Lamens Terms," which isn't as experimental as their earlier entry, but which kicks just a bit more ass -- typical fast Lagwagon with some nice chord changes. Bracket checks in next with "Talk Show." I've always felt like Bracket was Lagwagon's bastard stepchild...a little edgier, willing to take some risks of their own, not as polished, but rocking out in their own right. This song does just that.

After "Nick Northern," Snuff's second entry, "Walk," is a disappointment. If you're into fast punk with shouty vocals, it'll work for you, though. Finally, the recently-formed Gimmie Gimmies check in with "Country Roads." They've gotten so much better at covering songs since their early days, it's amazing. This is a little more straightforward and uncreative than we're used to now, but the harmonies are definitely solid.

By no means is this the most well-polished Fat comp. However, several of the songs combine to make this possibly the best showcase of their talent that Fat has ever put out there. I'll admit I have a soft spot in my heart for it, and maybe, overall, it's not as musically impressive as the newer ones. However, if you want a taste of mid-nineties Fat, or you just want to get rocked out, drop the five bones for this quality disc.