Wednesday, 20 August 2008

The Chemistry Of Common Life

Whilst Fucked Up might not be the best hardcore band around at the minute, they are without a doubt, one of the most interesting bands around at the minute; hardcore or not. Since their beginnings in early 2001 Fucked Up have been accused of being fascists, experimenting with mind control, made extensive use of Sigils in their artwork, written about the Situationist International, possibly penned their own interview for Maximum Rock and Roll, released an 18 minute long single, adopted a probably non existent svengali/manager called David Eliade and collaborated with Nelly Furtardo. They’ve also made it pretty much impossible to own everything they’ve ever released, possibly as a dig at record collectors; their huge discography contains incredibly limited 7”s, a couple of 8 tracks, one mix tape and a fake 7” entitled Hoxton Cunts, intended as a dig at the band and their relationship with Vice. Not bad for a punk band from Toronto.
October sees the release of the band’s second album, The Chemistry of Common Life on Matador Records, which the band describes as “an expansive epic about the mysteries of birth, death, and the origins of life (and re-living)."
From the get-go, it’s clear that Fucked Up are making the most of their new label’s recording budget. Opening track 'Son the Father' features a flute, bongos, some synth and lots of guitar tracks. Lots and lots of guitar tracks. It also features some questionable, overly sassy backing vocals, which reappear at the end of the record. It seems that Fucked Up are trying to avoid falling back on their standard hardcore sound, almost as if they’re trying to distance themselves from it or prove that they’re not limited by it, which is understandable considering how long they’ve been together and what Year Of The Pig sounded like.
One of the problems with hardcore records, and especially the “classic” hardcore records, is that they all suffer from poor recording and production. More often then not, it’s hard to reproduce the intensity of a live band on record, making the band sound flat or lifeless when in reality they’re anything but. Oddly, The Chemistry of Common Life almost suffers from being too well produced; there seems to be so many guitar tracks and additional overdubs that it creates a dirge like effect at points, notably on 'Days of Last.' It’s kind of similar to the approach that Oasis or any number of bands in the mid to late 90s; too much coke in the control room perhaps. If you think the Oasis comparison is weird, 'Crooked Head' sounds like 'Rings Around the World' by Super Furry Animals.
The second half of this record lags a bit; it’s not until 'Twice Born' that it picks up again. Of all the songs, this is probably the one most reminiscent of Hidden World. It’s your standard Fucked Up affair – Poison Idea-style hardcore with a bit too much compression. It also marks the reappearance of the female backing vocals from the beginning of the album – they provide a sassy response to Damian’s call of “hands up if you think you’re the only one.” Whilst it veers a little close to sounding like the guy from Blood Brothers, it still ranks as one of the stand out tracks.
Despite being a whole twenty minutes shorter then their debut, The Chemistry of Common Life still seems too long. A lot of it comes across as wholly unremarkable and passes by without really doing anything, and in doing so it high lights the problem with Fucked Up – they’re just not that good. Undeniably, they are a great live band; however, on record, and especially on this record, they fail to do anything to elevate themselves from being an above average band to an amazing one. If you get the chance, and you probably will considering their touring schedule, go and see them live. If maybe a cliché, but they really are better live.

EDIT: I forgot to mention that there's a big shoegaze influence on this record. Lots of swooshing guitars. An abundance of wah, if you will.

Fucked Up - Son the Father

(click on the icon to play the song)


Greg said...

Best thing they ever did was the Haymaker split 7"

And that's because Haymaker are astoundingly good

Fucked Up, I like, but they often seem a bit like they're trying to be different within hardcore. I don't think this album is a hardcore album.

I guess you can put it alongside Ink & Dagger's self-titled album with its shoegaze/post-hardcore/theatrics

David said...

It sounds a lot like Ink And Dagger. Good call.

D said...

I guess I can appreciate a band trying to do something different and I believe Fucked up were successful with it on Hidden World. Being able to make a hardcore album that sounded as epic as it did.

The Chemistry of Common life try's to recapture that magic but fails miserably. There are a few magic moments of hardcore bliss but to sit through everything else on that record takes a stronger person then I.