Release Date: Jun 3, 2014
Record label: Matador
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock
Few punk bands enjoy a good challenge more than Toronto’s Fucked Up, as the six-piece band has pushed the limits of punk and hardcore further and further with each release. But after releasing David Comes to Life, the epic, 18-track “rock opera” which the band referred to as the culmination of their entire career, I’d sympathize if they were a little nervous coming up with a follow up this time around (especially when some members even doubted the future of the group period). “Singles” Year of the Tiger and Year of the Dragon, with their 15+ minute expanses, hinted that there was no more room for small ideas for Fucked Up, but even with these colossal singles carrying the group forward, the idea of an album “bigger” than David Comes to Life from the six-piece still seemed like an unlikely feet for the band to accomplish…or even attempt.
Here is a list of just some of the things that Fucked Up has achieved in its mere 13 year existence: released a double concept album, won the Polaris Music prize, played on stage with Jello Biafra and Keith Morris, recorded a single reportedly sampling the Taliban, got banned from MTV Canada, started a series of songs based on the Chinese zodiac, debuted on the Billboard 100, beefed with Billy Talent, sued Camel Cigarettes, released over 70 records, won "Spin"'s album of the year, collaborated with Jim Jarmusch, changed the very perception of the word "Fuck. " That ain't too shabby for any band. For a punk band, it is unprecedented.
Fucked Up has never been a band to stand still for long, or do anything by halves (although Glass Boys will be available as a special edition featuring half-time drumming). They’ve never really fitted into the punk/hardcore templates that might otherwise have defined their sound, preferring to twist the form and plough a more winding furrow. The biggest problem they’ve faced must surely have been how to top their previous effort, David Comes To Life.
Fucked Up is one of those bands with such ambition and vision that you imagine they’re trying to up the ante with each new project. But it’s also hard to envision how the Toronto hardcore collective would follow up, much less best, its 2011 double-LP David Comes to Life, considering the postmodern, multi-perspectival punk opera was such a grandiose and bombastic gesture—and one that was universally lauded not just for the concept, but the results. Just as fans were trying to figure out what Fucked Up was going to do for an encore, apparently the band itself had trouble thinking through what its next step was going to be: According to an interview with Pitchfork, Fucked Up principals Damian Abraham and Mike Haliechuk went back and forth over what to do, with the former hoping to create another epic two-disc set, while the latter wanted to make a more standard album.
Canada’s Fucked Up aren’t a hardcore band in the traditional sense. Their last album, ‘David Comes To Life’, was an 80-minute long, 18-track love story set in 1970s and 1980s England. Not what you’d expect from a band who’ve forged a reputation for a ferocious live set, with shows regularly shut down and frontman Damian Abraham not afraid to bare all on stage, quite literally.Over more than ten years as a band Fucked Up’s image has constantly shifted, from hardcore noise merchants to pseudo-indie and experimental prog.
There's an argument that Fucked Up should no longer exist. Oddly, it comes from their guitarist Mike Haliechuk, who noted in a recent interview that hardcore bands come with a short life expectancy. 'If you've done it right, you have a good decade, and then someone else does it. That's the way it should be.' Time features as its own instrument on the Canadian outfit's fourth album proper in 13 years.
Fucked Up have always expressed a kind of anxiety or self-awareness in relation to their commercial success, and how it inevitably distances the band from their roots — especially following the acclaim of 2008's The Chemistry of Common Life. They used the money they were awarded by the Polaris Music Prize in 2009 to fund a seven-inch to benefit several charities, and they formed the Long Winter concert series in Toronto to not only foster a sense of community in the city's arts and music scene, but to keep their own feet firmly planted within those worlds. Their latest record, Glass Boys, is the first time that they're expressing such feelings directly in their music.
Since 2008’s The Chemistry of Common Life, it’s been impossible to talk about Fucked Up without also talking about the Toronto band’s relationship to hardcore. The musical inventiveness of Common Life and its follow-up, 2011’s David Comes to Life, pushed the genre’s boundaries so far that singer Damian Abraham’s basement-floor bellow became the only sound anchoring them to their birthplace. The transformation is so complete, and the group sounded so alive on David, that Glass Boys could have been the first Fucked Up record to breathe in its own environment.
Glass Boys will be tempting to ignore, and I don’t think even Fucked Up could blame the people that don’t listen to their music. It’s abrasive, usually conceptually challenging, and often long as hell. Asking people to listen to time-consuming music they might not understand or find pleasant to the ear is … well, it’s asking a lot. But the reason you might be interested in the album is that their work to date, particularly their last couple of LPs (2008’s The Chemistry of Common Life and 2011’s David Comes to Life), has been monumentally ambitious and unexpectedly inviting despite having a prickly exterior.
I’m feeling old, and Fucked Up have a hand in that. Glass Boys, the Toronto punks’ fourth full-length is rousing, energetic, alive, and a whole lot of other flattering adjectives. It’s also the shortest album Fucked Up have released, and Glass Boys moshes along with admirable efficiency and an innate sense of confidence. It’s a prime example of the kind of genre revivalism that is so casually fluent that it practically dares you to accuse it of laziness.
While Fucked Up may be referred to most often as a punk band, even a hardcore punk band, each of their last few albums poked a few holes in that envelope. Sure, Damian Abraham (Pink Eyes) provides the definition of in-the-red punk vocals on each and every song, but the band has explored a wide range of inventive approaches to their surrounding sonics. .
Fucked Up’s previous efforts to combine hardcore punk’s throaty rage and progressive rock’s narrative pomp resulted in 2011’s ‘David Comes To Life’, a no-foolin’ rock opera. At the time, the Toronto group hinted it might be their last album, as they didn’t see how they could top it. Three years later, they’re back with fourth studio record ‘Glass Boys’, which they’re keen to stress isn’t another conceptual record.
Get past the audacious concepts, the profanity, and Damian Abraham’s boarish grunt, and Fucked Up are essentially pragmatists, driven by a mission to rage within the machine. While Abraham may be conflicted about playing shows with Foo Fighters, being nominated for major awards and appearing on TV networks that still can’t say his band’s real name, they’re all necessary to give Fucked Up’s message the populist outreach it requires to be effective. Because unlike previous insurrectionists-turned-inside-operatives like the Clash or Refused, Fucked Up’s message isn’t political.
If Fucked Up are no longer a hardcore band, what are they? On their fourth studio album, they continue to move towards a layered, textured modern rock sound – still ferociously loud, but shorn of the brute aggression of hardcore. But there's a problem at the heart of it all, and it's the very thing that defines Fucked Up: their singer, Damian Abraham. He's one of rock's most compelling frontmen – democratic, funny and charismatic – and absolutely crucial to their rise.
In recent years, post-hardcore extroverts Fucked Up have proved there's more to them than confrontation, incorporating quasi-indie flourishes and lyrical headiness. Their fourth LP feels like their most serious yet – but that doesn't mean they've matured. Burly frontman Damian Abraham still remains furiously raw as he compares his expectations as a young screamer to his current lot on tracks like "Echo Boomer," and the band's triple-thick guitar assault still feels like a modern take on the caffeinated anxiety of Hüsker Dü and Wire.
In the video for Glass Boys' second single, Sun Glass, Fucked Up skip through a cemetery eating ice cream and cruise around on bikes, tromping the landscape of indie rock cliché and blowing pot smoke in the faces of the straightedge kids who have been calling the band sellouts since 2006. Like that video, Glass Boys bridges the gap between indie rock acceptability and Fucked Up's hardcore roots. More so than previous releases, this album is a bid for mainstream viability.
It’s impossible to pinpoint the second hardcore punk became ingrained in indie culture, but if there is a singular band to credit with bringing the style into vogue, it’s Toronto’s Fucked Up. With several trappings of hardcore’s sub-genres—the mysterious, Youth Attack!-styled covers, the vast storytelling ability, and the multifaceted onslaught that recalls different pockets of ’80s hardcore—Fucked Up became hardcore for people who both do and don’t like the genre. Its albums were sprawling feats, each one conceptually dense and musically aggressive while always remaining accessible.
Although Fucked Up's fourth album, Glass Boys, may not be as high-concept as 2011's sprawling David Comes to Life, the Canadian hardcore outfit delivers an album every bit as epic with Glass Boys. Rather than looking outward to tell a story, the album finds Fucked Up turning the narrative lens on themselves with a collection about the perils of getting older and burdens of unexpected recognition. On the poignant "Touch Stone," singer Damian Abraham spins a tale about the moment you recognize yourself in the faces of the kids in the crowd and realize it's your duty to inspire the next generation to take the torch and run with it.
With 2011’s David Comes To Life, Ontarians Fucked Up assured themselves a reputation as a truly unique band. They’d taken the tropes and tricks of hardcore, charged them with instrumental melody and, in that instance, turned out an epic four-part concept album about a guy working in a lightbulb factory during Thatcher’s Britain. The strangeness of the record didn’t end there – its lyrics were constantly questioning the very story they were telling, the narrator of the tale proving unreliable, evil even.
Toronto hardcore band Fucked Up has reached musical success far beyond their expectations, garnering a mass of fans with its experimental, Polaris Prize-winning album, The Chemistry Of Common Life (Matador, 2008), and its following critically-acclaimed rock opera David Comes To Life (2011). However, on this fourth album, Glass Boys, the experimental and art rock facet take a back seat. Returning to their roots, the band progresses forward by finally expressing their members’ inner worries and emotions up front instead of behind a label of imposed “experimentation.”In an interview, guitarist/lyricist Mike Haliechuk explains, “With hardcore bands, you’re not supposed to do it for more than a couple years.