Review: ‘A Fat Wreck: The Punk-u-mentary’

Posted: November 30, 2016 in Reviews

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‘A Fat Wreck’ explores the history and legacy of Fat Wreck Chords, NOFX’s Fat Mike’s record label baby, following their 25th anniversary. The documentary has been in the pipeline for a while due to financial constraints, having to access funds through Indiegogo. Shaun Colon directs his first ever full-length feature with ‘A Fat Wreck’ but he does astoundingly well to wrap up and pull together all of the various elements of the record label, the bands on it and the label workers into one cohesive body that does not extend beyond an hour and half (lasting a restrictive 88 minutes). The documentary is visually intriguing and engaging from the beginning: each of the five ‘original’ Fat Wreck bands that had the first releases on the label are introduced in segues, which rattles through all of their ‘Fat’ releases, using snippets of music from the release and Nintendo-style 8 bit animation. There are a number of other intriguing aspects that Shaun engages with on ‘A Fat Wreck’ (such as the use of puppetry), but it does result in- at times-  things being somewhat all over the place, particularly in the latter half of the doc.

In general, ‘A Fat Wreck’ is engaging to the viewer and comments upon a multitude of aspects of the record label and the wider scene. In particular, I enjoyed the part about the ‘Fat Wreck’ sound and how Mike tried to sustain this, right down to the producer often used by the label. Ultimately, Fat had to progress and they moved onto a new era of the label, which focused on signing more mid-tempo, melodically focused bands (like Rise Against or Lawrence Arms). However, this doc is arguably for fans of Fat Wreck only. There is no great overarching narrative or gripping story behind Fat, or anything. It doesn’t engage with Fat Mike personally to work as a character study or anything either. Basically: Fat Mike worked for Epitaph for a little while, liked what he saw there, borrowed 20k from his Dad and got somewhat lucky with his early releases (Propaghandi, Lagwagon, No Use For a Name). From then on, minus the record industry collapse, things went relatively smoothly!

So, this in contrast to say the recent Lookout records story as told by owner/ founder Larry Livermore (How to Ruin a Record Label), which was engrossing from first to last page, even for those, I would say, who are not that familiar with that label. Perhaps the most intriguing parts of the Fat Wreck doc are the segments which deal the drama (who doesn’t love a bit of drama?). In particular, hearing from both sides of the Propaghandi vs. Fat Mike disagreement was enlightening (see: “Rock for Sustainable Capitalism”). Or Mike Park’s (owner of Asian Man records) criticism of Fat Mike’s lifestyle from a moral perspective and Mike’s subsequent retort (spoiler: it involves Noah’s ark). Then, there were the funnier parts where we hear about how Get Dead basically drugged Fat Mike one night- and how he respected that! Personally, I am a little disappointed that Screeching Weasel got no mention at all in this thing, except, of course, the opening quote of the documentary (as can be seen above advertisement), which came from Ben Weasel himself (on Twitter): “A Fat Wreck Chords documentary? That’s it. I’m done. Western culture has bottomed out”.

DB

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