Fucked Up

David Comes To Life

BY Sam SutherlandPublished Jun 7, 2011

When Fucked Up released Hidden World in 2006, it was the first sign that the band were poised to explode out of the hardcore trenches. It retained the brutal simplicity of their earlier singles but upped the ambition tenfold, alienating people with its excessive running time and cementing Fucked Up's reputation as "ground-breaking," and also "difficult." Two years later, The Chemistry of Common Life catapulted them to a new level of recognition, winning them the 2009 Polaris Music Prize and forever altering the composition of their fan base to include as many CBC Radio 3 devotees as Negative Approach fan-boys. The oft-cited flute solo that begins that record became the easiest "this ain't your older brother's hardcore" touchstone, but the record was awash in bizarre experimentation, instrumentation and guest vocalists. Three years have past and David Comes To Life arrives with the weight of untold expectations. It's not a surprise that it delivers. Fucked Up are a band at the absolute peak of their abilities, as demonstrated by the series of less high profile releases that followed in the wake of their meteoric rise to Canadian punk superstar status ― David is simply the biggest, and the best, of the bunch. A concept album that chronicles the fall and redemption of its titular central character, David is a surprisingly straightforward album, musically. Many songs sound sonically similar to Hidden World, which will be an unexpected turn for those hoping for more of the out-and-out weirdness. Those seeking the aggressively strange need only pick up the band's Zodiac series, which saw them explore un-hardcore genres like Krautrock and psychedelia more directly, especially on 2010's Year of the Ox. Those releases have excised some of their most leftfield tendencies and left the leanest version of Fucked Up on record to date. Which isn't to say David is all spitfire tempos and righteous indignation ― there are a lot of simple rock'n'roll songs, which are guaranteed to be the thing that throws long-time fans for the biggest loop. If it weren't for the low octave snarl of vocalist Damian Abraham, some songs could easily slip into the track list for the Who's Tommy, if Tommy were about a guy in a light bulb factory falling in love then being betrayed by the omnipotent narrator of his story. Yes, it's a confusing record, but it's an incredible journey, one carried by a series of guest vocalists who let songs breathe between Abraham's caged-bear revelries. Conceptually, the record is a difficult one to dig into, but gratefully, the band have tried to offer guideposts to the story online. Frankly, it's too post-modern and crazy sounding to try and get into here, but at its core is the story of a man who falls in love with a woman who is killed, and his transformation following her death. Musically, the anchor of the record is the amazing guitar work of Mike Haliechuk, Josh Zucker and Ben Cook. Fucked Up have always been a guitar-driven band that happen to have a brilliant carnival barker for a lead singer, but David is carried by the mind-blowing sounds and riffs coaxed out by the trio. On every level, this is an album that rewards attentive, repeated listens. But unlike some of their material, this isn't a record that will take time to sink its talons into your brain. David Comes To Life is immediately accessible, with immediately memorable hooks that keep things moving over its 78 minute running time. It's long, but it moves quickly. This is going to be an album that you still listen to decades from now.
(Matador Records)

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