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Music Review: Various Artists – Wrecktrospective

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If one of your New Year's resolutions for 2010 was to listen to more punk rock music you are in luck. Recently Fat Wreck Chords put out their first ever anthology full of punk rock goodness — 88 songs to be exact. Wrecktrospective is a three-disc collection of greatest hits, demos, and even limited edition material that spans the 20 years since the label was founded. 

Formed by NOFX frontman Fat Mike with little advertising and no commercial help, the independent punk label has issued over 280 releases and is a well known favorite of many Warped Tour fans. The three-CD set contained in the digi-pack is just a sample of all that has been Fat.

The anthology is more or less a musical history of the bands that have put out material over the last 20 years since Fat Mike decided to start the label. Featuring punk bands from the past and present, I can only imagine that it was no easy task to take so many songs from such a span of artists and put them into the compilation, but it was done perfectly.

Throughout the set I was reminded of a slew of bands I stopped listening to over the years and was happy to hear them all over again. When a label has put out over 280 releases, sometimes it's hard to remember them all.

The first disc is full of non-commercial hit songs also known as "Fattest Hits." Listening to the first segment was like a blast from the past for me as I have been a Fat Wreck fan since its inception. Featuring familiar tracks by current label mates NOFX, Strung Out, and the Mad Caddies, the CD includes 33 songs by 33 different bands.

The disc also contains tracks from former Fat alumni who either disbanded or went on to bigger and better things over the years such as Against Me!, Less Than Jake, Hi Standard, and others. The first disc alone brought back good memories of amazing bands that I used to rock out to on a daily basis. If I were to make a greatest hits Fat album I might have selected just a handful of other tracks for some of the artists, but all in all they did a good job putting it together.

The demo disc, or disc two, features many tracks that were hidden gems until now. I had heard some of these tracks as well as variations on other Fat compilations before, but having all of them all on one CD is so much more fulfilling. From the Mad Caddies' “Polyester Khakis” (where they sample Body Count) to the acoustic “Everyone Is Telling Me I'll Never Win, If I Fall In Love With A Girl From Marin” by Bracket, I really enjoyed the collection.

Perhaps the most exciting feature of this set is the third disc as it contains the limited release Fat Club 7" series in its entirety. For people like me who missed out on the Fat Club this is a dream come true as it previously was not available on CD. Then again I am sure people who were lucky enough to join the Fat Club will appreciate this as well so they don't have to figure out how to use the USB record player to transfer their prized collection onto their computers.

I would have loved to have seen a fourth disc in this set including all of NOFX's 7” of the month club tracks and the joke in its entirety but I'll take what I can get at this time. At only $15 on the Fat Wreck Chords website this is a steal of a release and even includes a fold-out poster showing every Fat Wreck Chords release ever put out.

My only complaint with this set is the lack of a DVD. I think it would have been fitting to throw in a disc featuring live performances and music videos by an assortment of the bands. Seeing how Fat Wreck Chords strayed away from mainstream overload (aka MTV), I would have thought they would have built up a collection of videos and footage that further helped celebrate the two decades of accomplishment. Who knows, that could be in the works.

Previous Fat fans may not get as much out of this set as a newcomer might mainly because many of the songs on the disc have been on other Fat compilations over the years. Still it's a nicely put together collection of what makes Fat Wreck Chords.

Upon checking out the music I took a minute to read the insert pertaining to the record label written by Fat Mike himself. It's really an interesting read as Fat Mike confesses that the record label was all about "putting out punk bands that I really like" and talks about the ups and downs he went through starting his own business.

Knowing how the music business has been going these days, I was not shocked to read that Fat Wreck Chords is basically back where they started with little financial gain but I am so proud of them for doing their best to continue. With so many labels out there that folded over the years due to money issues (i.e. Grand Royal), I really hope to see Fat Wreck Chords last another 20 years and with their roster I have the feeling it will not be that difficult.

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