Toronto’s most notorious punk outfit return with an astonishing 18-track epic, charting the highs and lows of bulb-factory worker David as he copes with love, loss and redemption in the truly magnificent, David Comes To Life.
Fucked Up have in many ways, remained one of music’s great juxtapositions since their inception in 2001; a straight-up hardcore band with sprawling songs that often tip the six minute mark; a guttural vocal approach that just so happens to spout some genuinely beautiful poetry and a front man who somehow lives and breathes a unique, light-hearted onstage aggression. Fucked Up has always distanced themselves from their peers without ever losing sight of what makes the genre so exciting.
David Comes To Life has often been billed as a hardcore-punk opera; this is not the case. Anyone worried that Fucked Up spend the album exchanging melodramatic turns, distinctly laying each character’s emotions in a contrived and static manor can rest easy; that’s not to say this album isn’t dramatic, its gut wrenching, painful and uplifting , but opera this is not.
The consistent and engaging narrative that runs throughout David… is admirable and an achievement in its own right and although the lyrics are not always entirely clear, key lines and phrases and burst through the mix and constantly keep the listener in the loop. It helps also that the lyrics are almost always brilliant, only rarely succumbing to lilting rhyming couplets that comprise of most hardcore band’s entire lyrical approach.
For all of this album’s grand ambitions and purpose, it is Fucked Up’s handle on raw and unassuming gritty punk music that lifts this album into the realm of realized entity. The production is crunchy and thick while vintage four-chord progressions are matched with angular riffs usually reserved for shoe-gaze bands. It breathes comfortably in its own skin, never stepping far from its hardcore roots but completely owning the space it occupies; it might just be the most definitive sounding hardcore album there has ever been, always resisting the urge not to try too hard, or throw in a guitar solo in the hope of achieving ‘epic’ at the touch of a pedal. When Fucked Up do step beyond the parameters of hardcore though, it works; the sugary sweet vocals of bassist Sandy Miranda, who sings on behalf of love interest Veronica, brings a remarkable dash of melody that, set against the brashness of her band’s sound, is both vulnerable and utterly charming.
As with any project of great ambition, there lie patches that stop this album achieving iconic status. An 18 track hardcore-punk album, no matter how excellently executed, will always remain, simply a hardcore album and you cannot help but think of what could have been had Fucked Up embraced more of the influences that add so much colour to the album’s best tracks. Living within its own limitations though, David Comes To Life is genuinely superb, an album that grabs you by the wrist and expects you to keep up with every twist and turn. The musicianship is spot on, treading the balance of punk-ethics and virtuosity with ease and you simply will not find a more engaging screaming front man than Fucked Up possess in the demonic form of Father Damian. Put simply, this is a brilliant achievement.
David Comes To Life is available now through Matador Records.