Five insanely long songs that don't waste a single second

Every second is priceless.
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“THE DECLINE,” by NOFX – 1999 (18:20)

Green Day released American Idiot in 2004 to rave reviews. It was the fullest rumination that punk rock had produced about the modern decline of the American Dream. The previous title holder was Fat Mike and NOFX’s EP “The Decline” which is arguably tighter and more succinct, even at more than 18 minutes. “The Decline” is a single EP-length song that describes the dumbing down of American culture, and to tell the story, Fat Mike returned to the early pop punk (or melodic hardcore if you prefer) sounds that won NOFX a wide audience a decade earlier.

He set out to write an epic. "Where are all the stupid people from -- And how did they get so dumb?" Those are his opening questions. Like Lou Reed, he was marshaling many of the stories he had heard and seen during his time touring the land and writing them into a multi-part novel. And there was a ferocity to the righteous anger. The blistering music matched his words.

The lyrics are not funny – Fat Mike is not hiding his brutal observations behind humor as many punk writers might. But they are witty. "Bred on purple mountain range -- Feed amber waves of grain -- To lesser human beings -- Zero feelings." There are tempo changes. There are micing shifts. The song lurches and careens like a misfiring engine, but it never gives out or even really slows down. The effect is to keep you engaged through sheer nervous energy.

There are short songs and long songs that strike a chord when they are released but seem to date poorly over time. “The Decline” has grown. It is prophetic. Its music still feels fresh. And I think that is true of all of the songs on this list. I mean, if you’re really going to risk having your record label’s boss man’s fanny start squirming through a song that runs well past four minutes, you better have something to say. And the sounds to make us listen. And the sheer audacity to travel to places few other artists care to go.

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