Fucked Up have always expressed a kind of anxiety or self-awareness in relation to their commercial success, and how it inevitably distances the band from their roots — especially following the acclaim of 2008's The Chemistry of Common Life. They used the money they were awarded by the Polaris Music Prize in 2009 to fund a seven-inch to benefit several charities, and they formed the Long Winter concert series in Toronto to not only foster a sense of community in the city's arts and music scene, but to keep their own feet firmly planted within those worlds. Their latest record, Glass Boys, is the first time that they're expressing such feelings directly in their music.
After more than ten years since they started the band, how can they reconcile who they are now with the young punks they were and the band they wanted to be? It's not a simple question, but they handle it capably, with an impassioned record that feels like their most raw, personal work to date.
Musically, Glass Boys is consistent with what they've done before, but is notably leaner, as its ten tracks clock in at about 43 minutes. That's not to say that Fucked Up have abandoned their grand, the Who-sized sound; from the first few hits of Jonah Falco's bass drum, it's clear that they aim to be just as loud and commanding as usual. Falco's drumming is of particular note here, as it's been double-tracked, adding a dizzying frenetic energy to the songs, his literal changes of pace playing up the tension of feeling caught between young and old. The opening track, "Echo Boom," even cleverly references an older Fucked Up anthem, "Generation."
Throughout the record, Damian Abraham takes more chances vocally, while the riffs take a notable step to the side, placing the focus on the band's performance as a whole.
There's definitely a sense throughout Glass Boys that Fucked Up know they're not the only band to age, and are in fact a part of something larger, a tradition they've inherited and will pass on. The irony is that the ethic that keeps the band so grounded and creative is also what makes personal songs such as these so universal and appealing, which will undoubtedly lead to greater acclaim and successes. Glass Boys is the sound of a band reflecting on itself, trying to negotiate the world of success and get out in one piece. (Arts & Crafts)