Fucked Up - David Comes To Life
The file marked 'punk rock concept albums' is a thin affair. Once you get past Husker Du's Zen Arcade and the stadium-friendly ponderings of Green Day's 21st Century Breakdown, the folio is decidedly bare. Canada's Fucked Up, by dint of an increasingly modernist take on the hardcore genre, dare to add to the slim legacy by setting, rather incongruously, their third full-length album in the industrial heartlands of 1970s Britain. It is, by any measure, a triumph.
Without the aid of a lyric sheet, the tale itself remains rather obscure. With the lyrics, the veil is lifted a little: separated over four acts, individual tracks have Shakespearian sub-titles ('Truth I Know' -"Octavio, the narrator, is revealed as a participant in the events of the play") and the lyrical density is laid out over nine (count 'em) pages of A4, the "sea of words" described in 'Ship Of Fools'. Our titular hero spend his days working in a lightbulb factory in the mythical town of Byrdsdale Spa. He falls for a young woman intent on wreaking a terrible revenge on said establishment. From there on in, the the small cast of characters play out the story along a shopping-trolley strewn canal of love, loss and ultimate redemption. Heady stuff.
The weight of the words are leavened somewhat by the triple guitar attack of Mike Haliechuk, Josh Zucker and Ben Cook who weave a dense wall of melody against the atonal barks of vocalist Damian Abraham. Make no mistake, these songs are stuffed with rocking hooks, licks and textures with as many nods to arena rock as there are to Greg Ginn. There is something in the rhythms and tempo of the album that recalls The Ruts, yet 'A Slanted Tone' is the Paisley Underground-Hardcore crossover you never even knew you wanted. The effect can be strangely moving; driven by hate, frustration or anger, punk rock only rarely succeeds in articulating love or sadness - on a sonic level at least. Occasional interludes from the likes of Jennifer Castle and Cults' Madeline Follin soften the edges, but this is a fist-pumping, chest-beating collection of American rock that, at 78 minutes long, should keep bedroom guitar warriors busy for months.
But it is likely to be the story of David, Veronica, Vivian, Nick and Octavio that will linger over time, from the "lefties hand(ing) out pamphlets to the workers coming in", through the highs of new love and the black sinkhole of loss, to acceptance and memory - a veritable tale of the ages. Oddly, David Comes To Life may be the first genuine mainstream crossover album the hardcore genre has had in 30 years, and deservedly so.