When KBGA announced that Toronto, Canada’s Fucked Up would headline Endofthon a few weeks back, some of us at the Indy went Kim Jong-ill. The reactions to the announcement on Facebook that one of the Great White North’s most creative hardcore outfits was coming to town provided a peek into the psyche of local music lovers. They ranged from the good old, “Hell yeah!” to the predictably boring, “Who?” But the most interesting responses had to come from area dads who sincerely wanted to know what all the fuss was about. Publicly admitting that you just don’t “get it” is a ballsy old-timer move, one only a true music aficionado can make. For those who don’t get it, here’s a brief guide to a band that could be described as “Canada famous.”
Hardcore punk music takes more than a few shapes these days, but thanks to Swedish hardcore band Refused, the trendiest sound seems to be that of the high-pitched vocalist shrieking over perfectly tuned drums, well-kempt and grinding bass, and adroitly picked distorted guitars mixed 10 deep for maximum heaviness. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but Fucked Up is more sonically diverse.
Around 2002, the outfit’s four-on-the-floor style would have been recognizable to anyone with any amount of old-timey punk rawk knowledge, from Flipper to the Ramones. What set Fucked Up apart, though, were crafty arrangements that didn’t always follow the verse-chorus-verse-chorus motif, extended instrumental breaks and the throaty bark of Damian Abraham, aka Pink Eyes, whose voice is reminiscent of The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ Dicky Barrett. Like many bands of its ilk who either decide to go metal or melodic, Fucked Up made a choice. Fortunately it picked the latter.
For about three years, the band kept things punk rock by mainly releasing its music on 7-inch records and, in doing so, developed a devoted cult following of audiophiles and anti-corporate fans. During a live performance on Canada’s “MTV Live” in 2007, the band received national attention when a mosh pit broke out in the TV studio leading to a moshing ban on “MTV Live” ever since. MTV being MTV, it invited the band back in 2008 to play in the men’s room of the studio, whereupon the band and its fans completely destroyed the facilities.
But just because the group embraces rad gimmicks like playing a show in a bathroom stall or performing 12-hour long sets, it doesn’t mean they aren’t serious about what they do, or that they aren’t taken seriously as artists. The well-received 2008 album, The Chemistry of Common Life, garnered Fucked Up a Polaris Award, a Canadian music award based on artistic merit rather than sales.
Chemistry is a gateway to the group’s latest style. Chorused-out guitars shimmer above layers of traditionally overdriven instruments and Pink Eyes’ voice both clashes and melds with them, creating a perfect kind of pop music, an alternative to those who always hated the band Wings. David Comes to Life (2011) takes this formula even further, melding the abrasive screams with supple female vocals and the loud grind of distortion with the ring of sustained feedback. It showcases abstract lyrics searching for love with the concrete sound of a band whose singer sometimes bleeds during performances, whose sweat is so mingled with the crowd’s that it’s hard to tell where his sweat begins and theirs ends.
by Jason McMackin