Wednesday, December 24, 2008
The number five choice is the best punk album of the year, or at least the most popular, The Chemistry of Common Life by Toronto's Fucked Up. This six piece has three guitars, an exciting and confrontational lead singer, and one of the more hilarious, eventful, energizing live shows in the country, usually ended with lead singer Pink Eyes half naked and covered in his own blood. They take a lot of influence from Husker Du, Negative Approach, The Ramones, and occasionally bands like Pink Floyd. A lot has changed for the band, who moved from Jade Tree Records (Kid Dynamite, Lifetime, Breather Resist) to indie giant Matador Records (Interpol, Yo La Tengo, Pavement) to release this album. Apparently they all hate each other and never hang out, in an interview i've read the lead singer says "being friends just gets in the way of making good music." I guess that's one way to look at it...
I applaud Matador for taking a risk on this one. Fucked Up are not the most marketable of bands, with their name, their notoriously destructive behavior, their abrasive music...But then again, subversive counterculture is easily co-opted and commodified into the dominant, indie hipster sphere. The haters will accuse Fucked Up of selling out, but in reality, with no less than 15 guitar tracks per song, they've made one of the highest quality of punk albums of the decade. Driving, propulsive rhythms and constant guitar attack, with throat shredding vocals contemplating and attacking religion, christianity, and conformity, This record is more concise, shorter, and to the point than their last record Hidden World, though apparently this is due to greater attention to songcraft. Many of the songs on that record were over six minutes long, which is particularly long for a punk band. This seems to be a positive change for the band though, as lead singer Pink Eyes has said that album was about twenty minutes too long.
I've seen a lot of people comparing this to Refused's landmark hardcore masterpiece The Shape Of Punk To Come, and though the sound is different, the approach and idea behind it seem to be quite similar. Their impact is in how they rip a lot of preconceived notions of what punk music can sound like to pieces, the notion of which was previewed in their 18 minute, piano-centered single "Year Of The Pig." The songs on here just sound fucking huge, with not a single second of empty space.
Fucked Up seem to be the modern day torchbearers of all punk rock, having broken many barriers, turned a lot of heads, caused a lot of wounds and heavy bleeding, attracted celebrity fans (i've seen both Davey Havok of AFI and J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. at shows of their's), all the while maintaining a seemingly uncompromising integrity about their work. It's one of those rare albums that seems to redefine a genre, a new point on a map in which you can organize all punk albums into new before and after categories.
Here's a video I took of them at South By Southwest last march. I liked them so much that I saw them play twice in one night.