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Fucked Up - David Comes To Life

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Artist: Fucked Up

Album: David Comes To Life

Label: Matador

Review date: May. 31, 2011

Fucked Up would be a lot more what-the-fuck if they stayed in place. Hardcore contrarians, if not exactly hardcore punks, they’ve been careful not to repeat themselves, delivering everything between short, sharp rants and slowly forming suites. The Canadians’ have earned an audience drawn to the twists, who have never tried to pin them to a particular phase. They’ve yet to put themselves in a situation that would necessitate a throwing off of the shackles. Mischief seeps through their high-concepts. Playing playing "Oi" with a Vampire Weekend dude exposes the division between sectors of the independent music world as mostly a consequence of DIY marketing, rather than any real cultural rift. (Also, it makes for an easy-to-play encore.)

With David Comes to Life, Fucked Up arrives at an inevitability of a serious band: the double-length narrative concept album. A third guitarist has joined since Chemistry of Common Life, and while that record was no slouch when it came to splattering guitar chroma, this one has even more color. The extra strings serve them well for the extended running time. Also, it breaks up the utter monochrome of frontman Damian Abraham. I don’t say that as a slam; Abraham offers globs of broken lung for every song. If they had a conventional singer, or if Abraham had tried to change what he does well, this would be a much less interesting band. He make this record big-boned, no matter how lithe the playing gets.

The plot here is something about a confused young factory worker who falls for a wild anarchist chick, and then she dies in an explosion. Then the title character finds a way to rise out of the depression. Something like that. Bassist Sandy Miranda provides contrastingly girly vocals, presumably the part of the beloved. As with the better gatefold-operas, they don’t try too hard to maintain a story line. They go for the interior turmoil of David. "Life in Paper," with its cascading march and rain of whacked chords, is a relative of Quadrophenia, just as the churning "A Slanted Tone" hits on the chiming noise of Zen Arcade. That kind of arrangement signals that we’re in "rock saga" territory, even more so that what can be gleaned from the, uh, libretto.

Between the formal references and guitar frenzy, the furious throat and female back-up, any isolated track on David Comes to Life can play like a cross between Poison Idea and The Magnetic Fields, a fusion I don’t think anyone in any indie sector was looking for. Drop the playhead randomly, and it can sound kinda ridiculous. But listening on its own terms, this record lives up to its ambitions. The whole second half is boulevard of mended rock dreams, punk-prog momentum that constantly surprises without ever getting precious about it.

Most records like this are the showpiece of the combo’s maestro. This, however, feels like a real collaboration. All the playing drives home the "I can’t take it" couplets ("love the smell but I hate the taste, feeling good is such a waste"). This is bound to really affect some folks who are caught in a "I can’t take it" stage of life. David ain’t the kind of thing you want to hear every day, but it’s the kind of thing someone is going to play every day for a month. Or months. Whatever it takes to come back to life.

By Ben Donnelly

Other Reviews of Fucked Up

The Chemistry of Common Life

Couple Tracks

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View all articles by Ben Donnelly

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