I had given up on hardcore punk, labeled it a tired genre, too constricted. The Founding Fathers of Hardcore Themselves had to change their styles to stay fresh. Ian MacKaye formed Fugazi. Black Flag went Sludge. Husker Du and The Replacements evolved into, well, Husker Du and The Replacements. The only modern hardcore seemed “punks” clinging to some youthful rebellion without any artistic merit. At least that’s what I thought, until this cocksure opinion of mine was forcefully challenged this fall, when I was lucky enough to attend Matador’s 21st Birthday bash in Vegas. Fucked Up played. And somewhere between the ferocity of the music, the galvanic presence of lead singer Abraham, and the adrenaline and Loko in the bloodstream, they won me over. Eight months later, I picked up their new album.
David Comes to Life is a two-disc rock opera. It is about love, but mostly about loss, and set in some modern Dickensian factory-town. “Hello my name is David. Your name is Veronica. Let’s be together. Let’s fall in love.” This sweet and juvenile sentiment is growled by Abraham on track two, before the lyrics shift to death, existential disbelief, maybe some love again, and a puzzling breaking of the forth wall on the closing track, “Lights Go Up… ” And they succeed in creating a coherent narrative, to justify the Concept Album, and it’s likely a compelling drama, but most importantly: The Music.
Fucked Up are a hardcore band who create texture. They don’t rely on speed and power chords, but on tension. Three or four guitars layer rhythms and drones. Instead of Distortion and Fuzz, it’s Tremolo and Reverb. They sound more like Broken Social Scene than Bad Brains –BSS are also from Toronto…coincidence? Even worth mentioning? The female vocals, juxtaposed with Abraham’s stressed shouts, seem blissful melody. The drums and vocals bleed hardcore. You sing along without knowing the words. And the guitars keep your ears tuned and enthralled. The formula is fresh. The album may be long, but that’s what makes it a rock opera. Simply put: Fucked Up add the modern effects-sound to the testosterone of Pure Hardcore and the affect is infectious. David Comes to Life will likely be remembered for its ambition as a concept album, but, I’d argue, the music itself drives the album.
So maybe I had dismissed hardcore too soon. For all I know there are great hardcore bands around every corner, I just happened to walk into Fucked Up. Or maybe I need to stop looking through the filter of the punk genre. Whatever it is: See Fucked Up. If they are playing a show in your area: Go. Even if this means you can’t afford the album. Fuck it. No one pays for albums anymore anyway (editor’s note: I do!!!). They are a Must-See. They are creating great music. Go.