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Fucked Up “David Comes to Life” Review

Toronto’s Fucked Up rose to prominence a few years ago with the group’s 2006 debut LP, Hidden World, as well as The Chemistry of Common Life, the 2008 breakthrough recording that inspired talk of the band reviving hardcore punk. With David Comes to Life expectations are perhaps unrealistically high. Wild Flag’s Carrie Brownstein, referring to Kanye West’s work, once talked about how West succeeded in not merely making albums, but events. In some ways, the occasion of a Fucked Up release has people talking about not just the quality of the recording and the development of a band, but the expectations for an entire genre. Pressure? What pressure?

Yet over an unbowed 80-plus minutes, the group somehow delivers. Fucked Up is certain to go from the band that became not just the genre’s standard bearer today, but an outfit that will make you take a second listen to a sound you thought you knew.

Most people simply lump hardcore in with metal, hard rock and the like. And, though hardcore is arguably punk’s most influential subgenre, its distinct aesthetic sets it apart from the aforementioned disciplines as well as its ferocious progenitor. Legendary acts like Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys, often tagged as punk, in fact were most aligned musically and politically with hardcore. Easy mistake. What may strike the listener as a sound solely about confrontational backdrops to dense vocals is, upon further exploration, a style that possesses the sort of passionate musicality rare in rock’s more twisted branches. Herein Fucked Up initially came on the scene with a crispness that echoed some of the greats, while exhibiting fearlessness at bending genres and dissecting uncomfortable subjects. The band hasn’t had its social commentary moment à la “Holiday in Cambodia” just yet, but Fucked Up is young and its whiplash-inducing tour of defiance, fear, hope and redemption is yet to be complete. Its previous two releases were critically hailed and successful. In David, the band seems intent on delivering the roar you know and love, while pushing the envelope, as Fucked Up has always done.

What strikes the listener after a scan or two is the sheer completeness of the recording. David was conceived as a concept album. Hold the groans. Yes, concept albums, en vogue with higher minded artists and those craving to be taken seriously, are a mixed bag. Sometimes, in telling a story or conveying a theme, concept albums become flabby, meandering messes. Or worse — think the Beastie Boys‘ fantastic though commercially failed Paul’s Boutique — concept albums can completely mystify fans and vaporize a band’s base. David‘s complicated and sometimes diaphanous tale involving doomed love, social control and power in 1980s-ish Great Britain is at some junctures elusive as notions of justice in the same period were. Regardless, Fucked Up manages to craft a recording that tells its story over a graceful, if even at moments disjointed, arc. Debates will ensue over David‘s greatest moments and songs — the intense “Turn the Season” and crescendo of “One More Night” come to mind immediately — but Fucked Up should receive much more praise for David‘s great achievement: discovering the uneasy balance of making songs individual while shaping an experience that maintains continuity for which concept releases are theoretically and practically about.

Regular fans will be happy to see how Damian “Pink Eyes” Abraham’s skills have evolved on David over the old recordings. Certainly one of the other dangers of the many inherent in concept releases is a proclivity to experiment with lead vocals in pursuit of the story. Not a worry. Look no further than “Queen of Hearts” among other tracks for the churning, raw power of Abrahan’s voice, richer with experience and consistent with what fans want. A wider landscape offered with the regular addition of third guitarist Ben Cook, who first appeared on Chemistry but is now fully present, must also be noted as a great foil to Abraham’s ministrations. Fucked Up, in fact, show signs of progression in virtually all aspects of its game. The particularly discriminating fan may catch a gradual fade here of the aural carpet bombing that seemed more pronounced on Fucked Up’s debut. Yet it is the nuance on David‘s tracks, the newish gradual build to old payoffs, which presents a new musical maturity and unique satisfaction.

[Guest contributor Ernesto Aguilar also blogs at dotrad.]

MP3 Fucked Up “The Other Shoe”
MP3 Fucked Up “A Little Death”
MP3 Fucked Up “Ship of Fools”
MP3 Fucked Up “Queen of Hearts”

1 Comment

    The more I listen to the album the more I think that it actually lands outside the hardcore realm – to even call it punk seems a stretch at times. But interestingly that’s the perceived aim, right? To take the band to a different level, separating the group from previously held boundaries?

    That said it still takes a hell of a lot of dedication for the casual fan to endure 80 minutes of Pink Eyes lashing out on the mic, regardless of how toned down the band may seem in comparison to past efforts.

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