Release Date: Jun 7, 2011
Record label: Matador
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
FUCKED UP play Yonge-Dundas Square and Wrongbar June 16 as part of NXNE. See listing Rating: NNNNN Leave it to Fucked Up to attempt their simplest album yet - a love story - and come away with a 78-minute, 18-song metafictional punk rock opera about self-sabotage, deification and unreliable storytelling. The album's scope can be tough to digest in one sitting, but each listen yields new layers.
This Toronto punk band love a good gimmick, from the 12-hour-show they played in 2008, to their 300-pound singer Pink Eyes' love of nude stage-diving. But Fucked Up's real appeal is simple: guitars, three of 'em, though it can seem like thirty. Their fourth disc is an "opera" about a factory yob in 1970s England transformed by his girlfriend's death.
Forget about thinking of Fucked Up’s 18-track, 80-minute rock opera epic David Comes to Life as a post-millennial Tommy, because the wildly inventive concept album is, as frontman Damian “Pink Eyes” Abraham himself suggests, more along the lines of a pomo indie-punk Rashomon. A magnus opus told from multiple perspectives by unreliable narrators with dubious motives, the Toronto musical collective’s absurdly ambitious effort is part unabashed love story, part whodunit mystery, part psychothriller, part existentialist exploration, part lefty agit-prop. Musically speaking, David Comes to Life is just as rich, layered, and complex as its narrative, with Fucked Up somehow developing greater proficiency and adding more eclectic elements to its guitar-driven aesthetic without losing any of the aggro intensity that got the group noticed to begin with.
When it comes to making a record, Fucked Up are deadly serious... Let’s face it: when you name your band Fucked Up, you’re inviting a certain amount of preconceptions, the most likely being that you may be slightly unhinged; something which the Toronto-based sextet certainly play up to in their live show. When it comes to making a record, however, Fucked Up are deadly serious.
Punk rock has had its share of ambitious bands producing ambitious records-- Double Nickels on the Dime, Zen Arcade, Sandinista!, and The Shape of Punk to Come spring to mind-- but few groups in this sphere have pushed the envelope as often as Fucked Up. For the last few years, they've been releasing singles as part of a series based on the Chinese Zodiac, each of which usually runs over the 10-minute mark. For a 2007 charity Christmas single, they managed to get James Murphy, Nelly Furtado, and "Degrassi: the Next Generation"/"90210" actress Shenae Grimes (among many, many others) to appear on the same song; during a 12-hour (!) NYC concert in 2008, they got moshers to smash along to Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig doing Descendents covers.
Once a hardcore band steeped in scene convention – all vinyl-only singles and chaotic DIY gigs – somewhere along the way Toronto's Fucked Up got a taste for grand, expectation-busting gestures. Thus the flirtations with magick and mysticism, 12-hour marathon gigs, arena tours with Arcade Fire and now this, their third album, a 78-minute rock opera. So far, so outlandish, but just as even their fearsomely noisy early material always had an accessible, anthemic core, the songs here – all 18 of them – are not that unorthodox: a few tinkly piano intros aside, it's full of direct, hook-laden punk with a good dash of indie-rockish guitar layering and dynamics.
Fucked Up, being as they are enthusiastic yarn-spinners and canny users of Web 2.0, have cooked up a website to accompany David Comes To Life, their third studio album. While this is hardly unusual nowadays, it’s a shade more useful than the average fur-coat-no-knickers nightmare of Flash and bad viral marketing that describes most sites built to promote a solitary record. For one thing, there’s a ten-minute micro-documentary in which the Canadian sextet explain their position in today’s rock landscape: guitarist Mike Haliechuk, possibly attempting a pre-emptive strike, says that they’re no longer a punk or hardcore band, in spite of this being their unarguable heritage.
Taking the idea of a concept album to the next level, the always prolific Fucked Up went the distance for David Comes to Life. Leading up to this 78-minute double album, they released four 7” singles (packaged with eight unreleased songs related to the story), and a compilation record titled David’s Town, for which guest artists accompanied the Canadian punks as they pretended to be various fictional Brit-pop bands. This concept was a long time coming, and after writing a few songs about the main character David Eliade on previous singles “David Christmas" and “David’s Plan,” the band fleshed out a full story line from his perspective.
No matter how badly I wanted to get down with what was evidently the most ambitious hardcore LP since the Fugazi frontmen laid their Gibsons to rest and faded into side-project retirement, my admiration for Fucked Up’s 2008 breakthrough, The Chemistry of Common Life, remained academic. The album’s triumphant pop-hardcore single, “Black Albino Bones,” won me over with its mixture of surging hooks and bone-snapping guitar crunch, and the bracing acid-rock opener, “Son the Father,” was also pretty hard to deny. Clearly these pissed-off Cancuks had skill, but there was an awful lot of material that I found too tedious, too difficult, or just too noisy to engage with.
Nothing lasts forever. And while hardcore aficionados will strive for redemption through [a]Fucked Up[/a]’s operatic third full-length, they’ll quickly learn that while this offering maintains the group’s bilious urgency, the Torontonian outfit are not the musicians we met back in 2008. Behold their evolution: while 2008’s [b]‘The Chemistry Of Common Life’[/b] album was drenched in religious connotations and spiritual euphemisms, this time, their rock opera about romance and death at an English lightbulb factory (seriously) is theatrics personified, taking listeners on a quest while still abiding by their precious DIY ethic.
So, David works a mundane job at a lightbulb factory. He meets anarcho-sparkplug Veronica. The two fall in love. Veronica dies, somehow. David despairs, buries himself deep in grief and self-doubt, renounces any meaning in his life. Then he meets another girl and he has to decide if he should risk ….
Much like Psychedelic Horseshit, Bitch Magnet or Anal Cunt, Fucked Up is one of those bands I can’t really discuss with my mother. Next time we chat, and she asks if I’ve written about anything interesting lately, I can’t tell her I reviewed the new Fucked Up record. Nothing against her, she’s a very sweet and good-natured woman, but she can’t wrap her head around this kind of stuff.
In so many ways, Fucked Up is all about theatrics. From the eye-catching, provocative band name and band members’ stage names, to lead singer Damian “Pink Eyes” Abraham’s larger-than-life stage presence, to the dense lyrics and hardcore punk-inspired musical mess, the Toronto seven-piece demands attention and does so with dramatic aplomb. Despite dozens of 7?s, collaborations, singles, and splits, this is only the band’s third official LP, but it takes the drama and amps it up to an insane extreme: David Comes to Life is a four-act narrative album that encompasses a handful of esoteric characters dealing with the troubles and joys of love, all in thunder-charged guitar clangor.
At high school in Indiana, my coolest friend was into hardcore. By the time we graduated, he’d managed to join a well-known local screamo band (as their Moog player, no less) and had formed two of his own grindcore bands as a bassist. At the time, I was just beginning my journey from classic rock and oldies to the bold new sounds of the day. When my friend played his Racebannon, Melt-Banana, and Pig Destroyer records for me, I wondered — as we all did once — “How is this enjoyable? What’s the point?” My friend’s answer was simple: “When I listen to this,” he said, “I can throw someone through a window.” This sentiment informed my feeling about hardcore for a long time — even after I grew to love bands like Racebannon.
Canadian sextet ditches punk for a high-concept rock opera, with stunning results. Daniel Ross 2011 F***ed Up’s third studio album is about as resolutely un-punk as it gets. In fact, punk attitude probably has nothing to do with F***ed Up anymore. The trappings of long-form rock music have most definitely taken hold, but in no way is that a bad thing.
“Sun rises above the factory but the rays don’t make it to the street.Through the gates come the employees, beaten down and dragging their feet.A group of lefties hand out pamphlets to the workers coming in.For two people on the pavement life will never be the same again.” And so begins this epic rock musical yarn from the gargantuan post-hardcore / punk-gaze conglomerate that is the aptly name band, Fucked Up. This is a confusing record. I’m sure I won’t be the first to say that this potential magnum opus seems as titanic and fleeting as it does intelligent and visionary.