Release Date: Oct 7, 2008
Record label: Matador
If it isn't already, sometime in the near future, postmodernism will be as dead as David Foster Wallace. Culture, and indie rock especially, with its increasing self-conscious detachment from reality, has grown stale and has exhausted its ironic pandering. We’ve had too much shitty politics for the last eight years, and we now have an economy that’s not allowing us to take things as lightheartedly as we once did.
However it's billed, Fucked Up’s sophomore release is one of 2008's singular records. For whatever reason, loud punk rock has fallen out of favor as of late, and with its crunchy power chords and overdubbed guitars, The Chemistry of Common Life i s an unapologetically loud punk record. Despite a surprisingly visceral first listen, Chemistry reveals itself to be expertly crafted record with hidden subtleties at every turn, be they the synths that swirl in the background of "Golden Seal" or the shared melodies of the album's opener ("Son the Father") and closer ("The Chemistry of Common Life").
I wonder what the group meeting was like when Fucked Up, punk rock sextet from the mean streets of Toronto (wha?), unanimously agreed upon their profane title. Were there questions like, “What could we do to earn our youngest fans an ass whipping from their parents?” or “How do we generate interest in our band before anyone’s even heard us play?” It grabs your attention for sure, but I guess it’s not all that shocking having had bands like The Crucifucks pushing the decency envelope long before these guys may have even been born. But, there is something satisfying about a name as unflinchingly unapologetic and staunch.
The album opens with soft flute wanderings slowly overtaken by densely layered guitar washes that remind us more of shoegazer bands than of anything else, before the crushing drums and hoarse screaming thrust us into a futuristic reimagining of the punk formula. There will be hardcore kids who will thumb their noses at this lofty, too-smart take on the genre, but since when was punk about following a formula that's been endlessly reworked for decades? There's a reason why this Toronto band is capturing the imagination of critics and fans all over the world: they've reinvigorated the form and stretched its limits in genuinely novel ways, and for the most part their experiments actually hit their mark. Just when you thought the mallification of punk rock had sapped all the danger and excitement from the form, a band like this comes along to remind us that its potential hasn't been exhausted after all.
Whether they're having the likes of J. Mascis, Moby or Les Savy Fav's Tim Harrington guest at their recent twelve hour gig in New York, or appearing on the (admittedly hidden-in-a-bag-of-free-gifts) cover of NME, Fucked Up certainly seem to be the hardcore band du jour. Indeed, Harrington and singer leader Pink Eyes share more than just mutual admiration; both squeeze into XL clothing, sport bald head & beard and are prone to end up stripped down to their underwear and bleeding at their famously raucous live shows.
Review Summary: Unconventional hardcore with creative wanderlust is not the shape of punk to come.Fucked Up - The Chemistry of Common LifeFucked Up are poised to be the new Refused. Not since that now infamous Swedish band gave the world a glimpse at the shape of punk to come has a hardcore band received this kind of fanfare and critical support. Support for Fucked Up was originally a humble group of hardcore kids but as Fucked Up's style became more esoteric and concerned with artistry, so did their fanbase.
It takes stainless-steel balls to open a hardcore album with a flute solo, but that's exactly what sets Torontoan sixpiece Fucked Up apart from a billion others. This is third wave hardcore, and it's a return to form, where commentary rules and violence and ignorance won't be tolerated. Opening with mouthpiece Pink Eyes' explosive "Son the Father" ("It's hard enough being born in the first place; who would ever want to be born again?") set atop a wall of guitars, Fucked Up's second proper LP mingles aggression with experimentalism.
The last time we heard from Fucked Up, the Toronto “hardcore” act was 18 minutes deep in the prog-rock opus “Year of the Pig.” Folk artist Jennifer Castle cooed a gentle melody over violins, lead screamer Damian Abraham harshed the vibe, and Jonah Falco moved deftly between loping and motorik rhythms. Certainly, the 10-minute “Oi!” riffs of the band’s first full-length, Hidden World, bore little resemblance to Fucked Up’s traditional hardcore ragers (collected on the great Epics In Minutes CD), but beyond Abraham’s vocals, this record bore little resemblance to punk. Like so many other watershed moments in rock before, fans were puzzled, critics were intrigued, and the band gave little clue to what might come next.