June 1, 2011

Album Review: Fucked Up's David Comes to Life

Changing hardcore without losing touch with the its roots or disconnecting from its core audience has rarely proven to be an easy task. In a genre built on simple four-chord structures established by Black Flag, Minor Threat and other SST and Dischord pioneers back in the early ‘80s, flexibility, thinking outside the box or doing what hasn't already been done before are arguably the biggest hurdles to overcome. While the likes of Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr. and Hüsker Dü all graduated from the SST roster and were influenced by the genre to create entirely unique music, it ultimately was not hardcore for which they became known for. It's taken over two decades for a second coming, but hardcore has found its savior in the form of Fucked Up and their new release, David Comes to Life.

Touted as a rock opera, their fourth LP isn't theatrical or a mainstream cash-out in the ill sense that Green Day's American Idiot was. At an astounding 80 minutes worth of 18 tracks split into four "acts," however, it's an ambitiously original listen that breaks every rule on the hardcore blueprint without Fucked Up ever sacrificing their punk rock integrity along the way. A concept album set in Margaret Thatcher-era England during the 1980s, David Comes to Life represents everything the band has addressed over the course of their career: Questioning rules, morals, the truth and God. While we saw much of these themes on Fucked Up's swervy, shoegaze-laden 2008 standout, The Chemistry of Common Life, lead singer, Damien Abraham entwines those same merits inside matured anthemic hardcore ("The Other Shoe," "Turn the Season") with a complex love story revolving around the protagonists, David and Veronica. That story begs for a user's guide within itself, but the fact that Abraham placed so much emphasis on the lyrical content of David Comes to Life makes it exceptionally intriguing that you'll want to revisit it a dozen times over to understand.

Sonically, Fucked Up puff their chests out more than they ever have by daring themselves to push the boundaries of punk rock while creating a bigger sound, all while taking the risk of mixing it up with outer-genre influences. The grand use of three guitarists (a fete typically unheard of in hardcore) excessively cranking out spiraling power chords ("Serve Me Right," "A Little Death,") is David Comes to Life's source of blood flow from its very start to conclusion. Taking a note from the '80s indie rock scene, Fucked Up also riskily approach some tracks just as the previously noted bands did with genre-blurring soundscapes, playing to a "thinking man's hardcore" mentality ("Life In Paper," "Truth I Know," "Lights Go Up.") Meanwhile, assists from indie pop darlings such as Madeline Follin ("Queen of Hearts") and Jennifer Castle on backing vocals add a softer touch when paired against Abraham's coarse throating, stating the obvious that Fucked Up could care less about satisfying a stereotypical macho hardcore aesthetic.

All this being said, there's still a wealth beneath the surface of David Comes to Life looking to be discovered. Once known for creating Epics in Minutes, Fucked Up simply create a genre-transcending epic on David Comes to Life that is unafraid to break all the rules and reinvigorates hardcore (and music entirely) with a brave confidence that can only be applauded.

Fucked Up's David Comes to Life will be released June 7, 2011 on Matador Records.

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