Reviews Fucked Up The Chemistry of Common Life

Fucked Up

The Chemistry of Common Life

In Fucked Up’s early years, they only released songs on seven-inch records, two songs at time, sometimes three, very rarely four or more. Songs during the fifties and sixties were released in a similar fashion, the jukebox single on the a-side with one or two more on the back. Songs rarely exceeded the four-minute mark due to the space constraints of vinyl, a typical seven inch record holding no more than fifteen minutes of music, short enough to keep you from getting bored. Albums were rare. For the members of Fucked Up, they simply weren’t an option; a conscious choice for several reasons. Part was an homage to the old punk singles of the seventies and eighties: short, fast, pissed and to the point, but they also wanted to annoy fans, weed out the poseurs, and drive record collectors crazy.

So from 2002 onward came a litany of releases with varying colors, artwork, and other minute details that only a collector would obsess about. Then there were the records with songs etched in-between the grooves of the first song, records that played form the inside out, single songs played over the course of both a record’s sides. What ever keeps it interesting was the band’s creed.

But even this ended up becoming banal. They were going for something bigger, something longer. Eventually the band started churning out twelve-inch singles with one song pushing close to twenty minutes. It was a paradox; both the antithesis and true embodiment of what punk should me. Not since Flipper had a band attempted to alienate their fan base in the way Fucked up has done and continues to do. Surely enough they eventually released their first LP, an epic seventy-two minute album with string section interludes, nine minutes epics, and two minutes blasts of anger. They confused everyone including themselves, all while reinventing their rules and reshaping the concept of punk not done since the days of Black Flag.

Which brings us to the release of their second LP, The Chemistry of Common Life. In the minds of Fucked Up, punk is an aesthetic; an art form with a genesis rooted in the arrangement of three or four chords as fast one could. This is how the opener “Son the Father” unfolds, beginning with a short fife melody and expanding into a simple riff sounding bigger than a song by The Who layering three guitars, something rather unheard of unless in punk. The lyrics go a little deeper than hating your jobs, parents, and the police, posing philosophical and rhetorical questions that your likely to find in an epistemology class.

Now embraced by readers of Pitchfork Media and Vice as well as shoppers of American Apparel, Fucked Up has redefined their style to something best described as an art school influence. They’ve done away with the string sections and substituted them for keyboard parts and electronic programming underneath layered guitars. Three guitars to be exact, which make them the Iron Maiden of Punk and perhaps the innovators of NWOCP, the New Wave of Canadian Punk.

While their aim is admirable, the execution is long-winded and choppy, leaving the album to waver on the whole. Many of the songs are unbelievably good, Radiohead good, sounding like an entirely different band from their inception. “Black Albino Bones”, sounds like it could be a radio single if they band hadn’t damned themselves with a profane moniker. The melody and back-up vocals are as catchy as top 40 radio hit. Sync that with vocalist Damian’s throaty scream and you have something truly unique. Unfortunately they try the same thing on the next track, “Royal Swan,” this time doubling the lead vocals while an almost operatic singer belts out while the guitars and drums gradually build up only to resolve into distorted noise. While the intention is to give the song a grandiose sound, it comes off as kitschy, making art simply for art’s sake.

“Twice Born” comes off as the album’s angriest track, moving with Negative Approach style riffs that become ever brooding as the song plays out. With accompanying vocals, it has a raw, unpolished feel like the vocals of Le Tigre or The Locust. Note the art influence.

The trouble though is that these amazing songs are sandwiched between others with a similar formula but with less potency. It’s basic riffs played at medium pace, over and over. At times it’s hypnotic and entrancing, but a lot of it feels like it’s dragging. Add this to moments of electronic programming and staccato instrumentation in the hopes of sounding avant-garde, and it sounds more like filler to push the album to an “epic” length. Sex Positions, another punk/hardcore took the same approach but with brevity, making it more palatable.

While Fucked Up seems to release a new seven-inch or twelve inch every other month, they have yet to properly release a ten-inch. (There are bootlegs of “Since You’ve Been Gone” floating around.) If the band cut half the songs on this album and pressed them on a ten inch they’d have a damn near perfect album that still challenges everything about punk and questions the chemistry of common life.

7.8 / 10Scottie
KFAI - Roar of the Underground
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7.8 / 10

7.8 / 10

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