Every Song on ‘Short Music For Short People,’ Ranked
Posted on September 14, 2015
September 15, 2015 | by Kevin McElvaney
When considering the history and legacy of Fat Wreck Chords, the label’s many compilations inevitably come to mind. And, of all the comps released by Fat, there was never one weirder or more complicated than 1999’s Short Music for Short People. The single CD featured 101 different punk bands from various subgenres and eras, playing songs that were ostensibly 30 seconds or less.
The results were varied, with some bands seeming more comfortable with the time constraint than others. (Bad Religion, we’re looking in your direction.) Musical gimmicks, intentionally “shocking” lyrics, and ridiculous song titles ran wild. The end product was very much of its time. Though a few classic short anthems (and newer tunes by classic bands) were included, the release was mostly a sampling of the biggest names in 1990s melodic, skate, and pop punk, third wave ska, and hardcore.
There’s a lot going on here!
What follows is a not-so-detailed ranking of all the songs, in a way that resembles (but is legally distinct from) song rankings done by some larger publications. It wasn’t easy, even if it might seem like it was. Trust: a lot of these songs started to meld together after a while. Even with all the very distinctive bands and identifiable subgenres, it was hard to keep everything straight. In other words: this list is objectively correct and free of any human error or capriciousness.
A quick note: in the decade and a half since Short Music dropped, more than a few bands on the comp have been involved in scandals of various kinds. For the purposes of keeping this article, well, short, this list will mostly focus on the songs themselves.
101. Misfits – “NY Ranger”
100. The Real McKenzies – “Old Mrs. Cuddy”
99. Agnostic Front – “Traitor”
98. Spazz – “A Prayer For The Complete and Utter Eradication Of All Generic Pop-Punk”
97. Bigwig – “Freegan”
96. Bouncing Souls – “Like a Fish in Water”
95. One Hit Wonder – “Madam’s Apple”
94. D.O.A. – “I Hate Punk Rock”
93. 20% – “DMV”
92. Rancid – “Blacklisted”
91. The Bar Feeders – “Outhouse of Doom”
90. Adrenaline O.D. – “Your Kung-Fu Is Old… And Now You Must Die!!!”
“NY Ranger” might not literally be the worst track on this album, but it gets the bottom slot for false advertising. Aside from the fact that this is the Van Hagar version of the Misfits lineup, the song is a mere re-recording of a longer single written by the singer of Osaka Popstar for The Ramones. Pass.
Some of the other songs ranking this low also aren’t exactly terrible, so much as they are examples of great bands underachieving. The Souls’ track (more of a traditional Italian song than, well, anything else on here) would be a fun interlude at a show, but it’s a definite “skip” in this setting. Meanwhile, Rancid released “Don Giovanni” a year after this: 36 seconds of awesome hardcore. Tragic timing on their part.
Most of the other songs in the bottom dozen are here because of terrible, sort-of-offensive lyrics (Bigwig, One Hit Wonder) or for being Celtic punk (sorry, Real McKenzies).
89. Lunachicks – “Pretty Houses”
88. The Living End – “Ready”
87. Wizo – “The Count”
86. 7 Seconds – “F.O.F.O.D.”
85. Citizen Fish – “Alienation”
84. The Dwarves – “The Band That Wouldn’t Die”
83. Spread – “Surf City”
82. Pulley – “Fun”
81. Youth Brigade – “You Don’t Know Shit”
80. Bad Religion – “Out of Hand”
In a compilation with 100 other bands, each has the unenviable task of trying to stand out. Some bands tried their damndest to be unique and fell flat. The Lunachicks were not a bad band, but “Pretty Houses” (#89) is ridiculous to a fault. Meanwhile, The Living End show with badass lead guitar work, hoping that is enough. It is not. Not here.
Wizo’s “The Count” (#87) wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t the umpteenth song in this collection to be written about the fact that (gasp!) it’s 30 seconds long. It’s melodically promising, but the gimmick is too much.
There are also quite a few okay tracks in here by some legendary bands. Other writers on this site will likely guffaw at those bands being ranked so low. So be it.
Bad Religion turn in a 40 second song, though. That’s friggin’ inexcusable.
79. Buckwild – “Tribute To The Mammal”
78. H20 – “Mr. Brett, Please Put Down Your Gun”
77. Swingin’ Utters – “Back to You”
76. White Flag – “Rage Against The Machine Are Capitalist Phonies”
75. Snuff – “Big Fat Skinhead”
74. Trigger Happy – “Turn It Up”
73. Poison Idea – “Humanity”
72. D.I. – “Comin’ To Your Town”
71. No Fun At All – “Get a Grip”
70. Frenzal Rhomb – “My Pants Keep Falling Down”
Some pretty solid late ‘90s hardcore offerings in here from No Fun At All and Poison Idea. This is coming from the guy who ranked 7 Seconds near the end of the list, so ya know, take that however you will.
White Flag offer, if nothing else, one of the more amusing song titles on the comp. The H20 track is reportedly a rib on the aforementioned Bad Religion and their special snowflake, 40 second song. (Seriously, what did you expect from the band who released Into the Unknown?)
69. Enemy You – “Bedroom Windows”
68. Useless ID – “Too Bad You Don’t Get It”
67. Hotbox – “Staggering”
66. Dogpiss – “Erik Sandin’s Stand-in”
65. Pennywise – “30 Seconds Till The End Of The World”
64. Sick of It All – “Blatty (Human Egg)”
63. Fizzy Bangers – “Short Attention Span”
62. Jughead’s Revenge – “Faust”
61. Bodyjar – “Wake Up”
60. Nicotine – “Eyez”
“Short Attention Span” (#63) is the most truncated song on the whole comp, and it’s just clever (and short) enough that the joke hasn’t grown horribly stale after all this time.
Pennywise offer up a marginally more clever take on the musical egg timer gimmick Wizo employed earlier in this list. It feels like a full Pennywise song, despite the gimmick, so that’s a thing. In a collection of songs over way too fast, cohesiveness is a tall order.
There’s plenty of decent, understated pop punk in this part of the list, too, made by bands who would’ve probably been appropriate signees for Fat in the late ‘90s. Lagwagon and Descendents influences abound. Also, the Dogpiss track is super fun.
59. Mad Caddies – “Mike Booted Our First Song, So We Recorded This One Instead”
58. Men ‘O Steel – “In Your Head”
57. Aerobitch – “Steamroller Blues”
56. Unwritten Law – “Armageddon Singalong”
55. Samiam – “Long Enough To Forget You”
54. Good Riddance – “Overcoming Learned Behavior”
53. Hi-Standard – “Asian Pride”
52. Radio Days – “Wake Up”
51. ALL – “I Got None”
50. Caustic Soda – “Welcome To Dumpsville, Population: You”
I ranked these bands with the Mad Caddies once and liked what I heard.
Samiam’s “Long Enough to Forget You” (#55) is reminiscent of the band’s earliest releases. Very cool. Only set back by the 30 second time constraint and the fact that, yes, you know they couldn’t resist singing a little bit about it. Et tu, Beebout?
ALL and Good Riddance could probably be ranked a bit higher. The middle of this list starts to gel together a bit, to be honest.
49. Strung Out – “Klawsterfobia”
48. 59 Times the Pain – “We Want the Kids”
47. One Man Army – “300 Miles”
46. Guttermouth – “Don Camero Lost His Mind”
45. Nomeansno – “No Fgcnuik”
44. Satanic Surfers – “Another Stale Cartoon”
43. GWAR – “Fishfuck”
42. Anti-Flag – “Bring It To An End”
41. Ten Foot Pole – “I Don’t Mind”
40. Dillinger Four – “Farts Are Jazz to Assholes”
This is an interesting crew of bands, right here. Even all these years later, it’s crazy to see GWAR, Strung Out, and Nomeansno contributing to the same release. Granted, the Nomeansno song is not exclusive to this comp, but still.
One Man Army gives us a track that seems to be somewhere between klezmer and surf, and it works really well for them. Meanwhile, Satanic Surfers’ “Another Stale Cartoon” (#44) borrows all of its lyrics from a much, much longer Dead Kennedys tune (“Chickenshit Conformist”) while making sure it is musically quite different from the source material. Is it technically a cover? No matter: it gets points for ambition.
D4’s ranking is due in large part to the song title. Sometimes, on this comp, that’s good enough.
39. Limp – “X-99”
38. Avail – “Not a Happy Man”
37. The Criminals – “Union Yes”
36. Fury 66 – “Waste Away”
35. Subhumans – “Supermarket Forces”
34. 88 Fingers Louie – “All My Friends Are In Popular Bands”
33. Consumed – “Delraiser Part III: Del On Earth”
32. Down By Law – “Life Rules 101”
31. Diesel Boy – “Chandeliers and Souvenirs”
30. Terrorgruppe – “A.C.A.B. (All Cops Are Bastards)”
A fine batch of songs here, including some by bands that are not talked about nearly enough anymore. So talk about them, already!
29. The Offspring – “Hand Grenades”
28. Killswitch – “Saturday Night”
27. Bracket – “Warren’s Song Part 8”
26. The Queers – “I Hate Your Fucking Guts”
25. Screeching Weasel – “Dirty Needles”
24. Undeclinable Ambuscade – “Not Again”
23. Goober Patrol – “Mirror, Signal, Wheelspin”
22. Dance Hall Crashers – “Triple Track”
21. Mr. T Experience – “Told You Once”
20. AFI – “Hearts Frozen Soil Thawed Once More By The Spring Of Rage, Despair, And Hopelessness”
It’s amazing to think that over 15 years have passed since this comp’s initial release. It seems like just yesterday when I was preparing to enter the tenth grade, and… Wait. No it doesn’t. This thing came out a long time ago, and a lot has happened since then. For one, the AFI track is definitely more in tune with the Misfits worshipping band they once were, giving no indication of the sound they would eventually develop. Again, a lot happens in a decade and a half.
The Queers and Screeching Weasel are ranked together here, which seems appropriate for several reasons.
“Told You Once” (#21) retains the musical character of Mr. T Experience’s best material, albeit with lyrics that are quite a bit less nuanced. It’s also only 11 seconds long, anyway.
Dance Hall Crashers take the formula other bands tried to work with earlier in this list (a song about writing a song for this comp) and, with tongues firmly in cheek, knock it out of the park. Check out those harmonies!
19. The Damned – “It’s a Real Time Thing”
This song is claiming to be an exclusive by the first UK punk band to ever release a single. C’mon. It’s solo Morrissey. Just listen to it.
18. Descendents – “I Like Food”
You know this song already.
17. Black Flag – “Spray Paint”
This one, too.
16. Chixdiggit! – “Quit Your Job”
Oh, that? It’s just Chixdiggit!, turning in a quirky, memorable song like it ain’t no thing. Don’t act surprised.
15. Nerf Herder – “Doin’ Laundry”
Quick: you’re a band trying to write a song for a comp full of 30 second songs by 100 other bands. What do you do to stand out? If you’re Nerf Herder, you try to gross people out by singing about the unspoken, primary use of tube socks.
14. NOFX – See Her Pee
And, if you’re NOFX, you try to one-up Nerf Herder in the gross-out department. This song probably shouldn’t be ranked so high, but you can blame Kazaa (and a certain b-sides record) for giving the impression that this song was popular.
13. Lagwagon – “Randal Gets Drunk”
Moderate use of upstrokes, emotional vocals, ridiculous lyrics that keep you from taking it all too seriously…this is really everything you want in a Lagwagon song.
12. Groovie Ghoulies – “Doin’ Fine”
Delightful pop. Super repetitive, in a way only a few bands can pull off.
11. Blink-182 – “Family Reunion”
This song, like some others on here (even a couple in the top 20) doesn’t age very well. It’s also, without question, the best known song from this comp. If nothing else, it makes us rightly embarrassed about the younger versions of ourselves. That’s not nothing!
10. Tilt – “John for the Working Man”
Other songs on here age very well, indeed. If you haven’t listened to Tilt recently, go remind yourself of what you’ve been missing. Holy shit.
9. The Dickies – “Howdy Doody in the Woodshed”
Some pretty dark lyrics here, even by Dickies standards. Later reworked into a longer song for the band’s only full-length on Fat, it’s musically resonant of their earliest material…much more so than the other songs on that record.
8. The Muffs – “Pimmel”
This song seems like a wonderfully understated, lo-fi acoustic number. Put its lyrics into Google Translate, though, and you’ll get a much different image of it.
7. The Vandals – “To All The Kids”
Something of a hymn of unity for outcasts of all stripes. Awesome.
6. Green Day – “The Ballad of Wilhelm Fink”
Technically solo, acoustic Billie Joe Armstrong, nominally Green Day, and resembling Pinhead Gunpowder more than either of those things. Seriously, did Aaron Cometbus ghostwrite this one?
5. Teen Idols – “Ketchup Soup”
Delicious, delicious pop punk. Much tastier and more satisfying than the desperation dinner for which it’s named.
4. Less Than Jake – “Anchor”
Disclaimer: I’m not the biggest Less Than Jake fan…or a Less Than Jake fan at all, really. This is an objectively correct list, though, and “Anchor” rules.
3. The Ataris – “The Radio Still Sucks”
Nostalgic for the alternative rock of the ’90s? Kris Roe isn’t. This one is concise and still packs a punch. Where 30 seconds seems limiting in many of these 101 musical case studies, this song feels fully formed. Not an easy task, to be sure.
2. Circle Jerks – “Deny Everything”
This feels like cheating. The opening track of Circle Jerks’ classic album Group Sex has the distinct advantage of being the opening track of Circle Jerks’ classic album Group Sex. It could’ve been number one, but that just doesn’t seem fair. So, in the interest of a level playing field, it’s number two.
1. No Use for a Name – “Sara Fisher”
It feels odd to describe these songs in literary terms, but, well, the thousands of dollars burned on my English degree have to put to use somewhere, right? This track has that “slice-of-life” quality to it, feeling like a short story wrapped in the packaging of a 30 second song. It’s a great representation of a particular thing Fat Wreck Chords does well, and it epitomizes what this comp was likely meant to be.
So there you have it: an objective, unimpeachable ranking of an overly ambitious compilation that, warts and all, is an interesting document of the late 20th century punk scene.