Fucked Up — David Comes to Life

Fucked Up — David Comes to Life

(2011, Matador Records)

The new release from Canadian hardcore legends Fucked Up is a full-blown concept album. Its storyline goes something like this: David, a factory worker in 80s Britain, meets a nice girl. She dies. David gets depressed and winds up in an even more fraught relationship. Then things begin to get awfully surreal. You’ll have to decipher the rest yourself because we need to move on. I’ve only got four hundred more words to try and explain just how incredible this album is.

Fucked Up has a history of unconventional musical swerves that seem at odds with its hardcore roots. No stranger to wilfully ignoring the pigeonholing of genre restrictions, the band has released albums filled with decidedly non-punk instrumentation, and isn’t remotely afraid to stretch songs out to prog-worthy lengths. The idea that Fucked Up would release a rock-opera, something you’d normally associate with self-indulgent 70s rock bands, doesn’t seem too surprising if you consider that their two previous long-players, Hidden World and The Chemistry of Common Life, were both expansive, challenging works.

While the new album is certainly more ambitious and epic than anything Fucked Up has released before—lyrically contorting a tale of love and loss into a complex meta-narrative—musically at least they’ve taken a step backwards. In the past the band has been happy to luxuriate in layering sounds, but David comes to life is filled with snappy pithy numbers. There are still plenty of guitars on board; they’ve just adjusted the mix to highlight the old-school hardcore grunt. It’s a smart move, because for all its length, and despite the convoluted storyline, the album races through its eighteen tracks with plenty of catchy melodies to ensure it never drags.

With lead singer Pink Eyes barking out those gravelled vocals and guest vocalists bringing a poignant, heavy-hearted feel to many tracks, this is an album that only a band as uncompromising as Fucked Up could make. Sure, Fucked Up isn’t the first punk band to dabble in the rock-opera realm, but it is the first band in a long time to do so with credible non-mainstream appeal. This is what real innovative punk rock sounds like and for a band so notorious for its deviations this is a fully focused effort. Fucked Up has released great albums before this, but if the band never records another note—and there’ve been plenty of hints dropped in interviews to suggest it may not last much longer in its current state—then its legacy is secured with David comes to life.

Portions of this review published in Issue 44 of Manual magazine.