Hardcore is neither my forte nor a genre I particularly enjoy. I find it’s loud (and not in a good way) and mostly either lazy or dull as hell. If my life depended on it, I think I would probably struggle to name three currently working hardcore bands. My desire to really engage with the genre is minimal at best.
And it is because of this general ambivalent attitude that made my enjoyment of Fucked Up’s music even more confusing to me. Their desire to not be another hardcore band and branching out for a deeply experimental and well crafted sound has brought them accolades that go beyond the heights that most would expect of a hardcore band such as winning the 2009 Polaris Music Prize for their album “The Chemistry of Modern Life“. Their newest album may be the most ambitious album conceived and released this year; a rock opera based in an imaginary English town about a young man who works a monotonous light bulb factory job who falls in love with Veronica, a communist handing out pamphlets to the worker. The two live in a state of romantic bliss until Veronica dies suddenly after a tragic incident. As a result of her demise, David is riddled with grief and despair. From there the album’s plot takes many twists and turns with the narrator of the story being unreliable and a character in himself.
Something that caught me off guard on this album was just how lyrical it is; each song paints a vivid image that helps to formulate this story in the world Abraham has created. This is no more evident than on the terrifically energetic and oddly sweet ‘Queen of Hearts‘ which explains the fateful meeting of David and Veronica and through it’s storytelling and the immediacy in it’s pace creates a song that is, for my money at least, one of the best rock songs of the year.
Seeing as Fucked Up are a hardcore band, Daniel Abraham aka Pink Eyes spits the lyrics out at a ferocious and violent pace instead of simply singing them. Considering the lyrical content and the emphasis on the album’s narrative, this could have been a problem, potentially dissuading listeners away from sticking out the whole 78 minutes. But I felt that his vocal style really added something to the album’s story and helped it to stand out from other offerings from the rock opera subgenre, which is typically more than a little pretentious and mostly a bit too full of themselves. Had Abraham sang the lyrics, I doubt the album would provide listeners with the same emphatic and interesting sound/feel that it does the way it is.
Musically, the album is melodic in it’s sound to the point where it’s possible to forget that Fucked Up are a hardcore band. The opening instrumental track ‘Let Her Rest‘ is incredibly beautiful as it steadily pieces together and continues to build up and pick pace. It”s the kind of song you’d imagine from a band with a softer edge and one that shows that Fucked Up aren’t afraid of taking chances with their sound. ‘The Other Shoe‘ is the pinnacle of the album with it’s use of various vocals constantly droning “We’re dying on the inside, dying on the inside, dying on the inside” both the crunching and sound scape guitar tracks . It’s a treat for the ears and one of the best (and most accessible) songs the band has ever recorded.
The album is a long, 18 track, 4 part affair which, on paper, seems to be more long drawn than it feels when you’re listening to it. Where some albums may fall off in the latter stages, “David Comes to Life” maintains it’s pace and ferocity throughout never gets dull or panders off. If anything, through it’s intriguing narrative and it’s many twists, turns and revelations, it leaves you listening intently track after track.
Fucked Up have made something that should be championed; an album that demands an audiences attention and one that’s more ambitious than anything from most band’s back catalogues. “David Comes to Life” is likely to be the album Fucked Up are remembered for making; it’s their most creative, literate and engaging album yet.
The site for the album, with the story available for all to enjoy http://www.davidcomestolife.com/
Queen of Hearts