The third full length album by modern day Punk legends Fucked Up is a rock opera in four parts, a concept album, and the tale of love and loss in Thatcherite Britain. It's over an hour long and consists of 18 tracks; it is by all counts what one would call epic.
For those who don't know of Fucked Up they are a largely experimental Hardcore Punk band and when the opening track of David Comes To Life starts you could be forgiven for wondering if you had put the wrong CD in; 'Let Her Rest' with its sweeping keyboard melodies and sonically ambient guitar distortions does not sound like the work of a band with swears in their name, but then you know what they say about assuming.
Having listened to music before you will be aware that this record offers far more than 18 three minute songs, even for a concept album, the intricacy and thought here is on another level entirely with characters and plot points and dialogue: "hello, my name is David, your name is Veronica, let's be together, let's fall in love." Of course you can't have characters and dialogue without a narrator and that is where Fucked Up has some fun, for this narrator becomes increasingly unreliable as the album progresses: "I told you it was him. I tell it like it is. The story served his purpose and look at what he did. I just read the lines-the acts are his designs." 10,000 Marbles (Mike Haliechuk) and Pink Eyes (Damian Abraham) are responsible for these lyrical ballads and they are experts at what they have done with songs referencing details in earlier songs, particularly 'The Other Shoe', David Comes To Life benefits repeated listening. If, understandably, you get a bit lost in the story each song has a subtitle to keep you on the right path, they go from; "David and Veronica Meet" through "The personified David and Octavio spar in a side story" finally back around to "David comes to life, with love in his heart." While it's quiet easy to immerse yourself in the story of this album it is only one of its delights.
Musically this is a beautiful mix of old school punk and modern melodies; it makes for a sound unique to Fucked Up. The rawness of Abraham's voice sounds like he has broken glass for vocal chords and his angry stilted delivery creates a tension in the songs that reflects the story; it's almost like his lyrics are being tattooed on you as they leave his mouth. The backing vocals are brilliant throughout; delivered by numerous individuals, the innocent performance by Jennifer Castle stands out as one of the albums charming quirks. With three guitarists, a bass player, and a drummer to add to the line-up there is a lot to sink your teeth into here and if you had to complain about anything it's that there is too much and by song ten you feel ready for a bit of a breather. It is a hard going record, but as a music fan you should relish the challenge that is so rare for a band to offer you these days. The layering of chugging rhythm and riffing lead guitars throughout this experience is stunning and goes above and beyond anything punk usually offers; if you stripped all the vocals away this could at times be a Mogwai record- see 'Ship Of Fools.' Fucked Up are a distinctive proposition in today's musical climate, people of course use the same type of high pitched distorted guitar melodies, but to mix it with Hardcore is a charm only applicable to them, 'I Was There' one of the fines tracks on the record does this well. Sure we have Hardcore punk bands like The Bronx that spring to mind, but this is more akin to Jawbreaker or Black Flag with a little Dead Kennedy's thrown in.
It might not be perfect, but it's one of few albums this year that will come close. Listen to this record and then recommend it to everyone you know.