Various Artists - Short Music for Short People (retro review) (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Various Artists

Short Music for Short People (retro review) (1999)

Fat Wreck Chords

In 1999 Fat Mike and the NOFX team released The Decline. Despite its short length, the album was big.

But I don’t think that was the best idea Fat Mike had that year. As exciting as The Decline was, his other idea, this for a compilation where the songs are limited to a single rule was, to me, the more clever of the two.

Simply put: Short Music for Short People was, and still is, a blast.

Taking its name from the first Fat Wreck comp, Fat Music for Fat People, SMfSP’s single rule was that the songs had to be limited to 30 seconds or less. While some of the tracks provided had been previously released (some go as far back as the early-80s), most were new compositions written for the comp itself. The roster of 101 bands ran the gamut from old school bands that had disbanded (Black Flag, D.O.A.), new and up-and-coming acts (The Ataris, Enemy You), the current crop of punk rock royalty (Bad Religion, NOFX) to groups which had been toiling away in relative obscurity for years (Fizzy Bangers, Caustic Soda)... this comp had it all.

With 30 seconds or less to try to make your mark, many bands got creative and went out of the box. Others were pretty straight-forward and stayed in their wheelhouse. At the time, the excitement and energy the album elicited was beyond compare.

Twenty years on, though... it’s a bit harder to say. About half the songs come across as 1) entertaining, 2) clever, or 3) both. There are definitely many keepers, and a few songs which are still phenomenal to this day.

The remaining half... sometimes good for a trip down memory lane but with the advent of digital music and curated playlists, a lot of these songs don’t get filtered into my shuffle list anymore. Many of the songs seem a little bit too straight-forward through the lens of time. Coming across as very pedestrian, leading the listener to wonder exactly how a band faced with such an incredible opportunity could end up submitting such a basic punk song.

Still, the concept was clever and unique, and enough bands stepped up to the plate to make this a worth-while album. It is quick enough to listen to and, if you don’t like a particular song, you just gotta wait a few seconds until the next one comes on. I’m not gonna lie: it was a treat to listen to this straight through from beginning to end for the first time in over 14 years. If you haven’t heard it (WHAT?!?) or haven’t revisited it in a while, take 50 minutes for some “me time” seclude yourself in a dark room, put on the headphones, and harken back to the days when an album seemingly geared towards ADHD kids was a fantastic idea.