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October 24, 2006

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So much punk music is such utter bullshit that it makes me want throw a street party when I hear some that is genuinely feral and exciting. Canadian hardcore mentalists (one band member is schizophrenic, two others clinically depressed and they can barely stand to be in the same room as each other) Fucked Up, along with The Bronx, are some of the only North American punks worth taking seriously. Demented anarchist situationists they make bands such as Rancid look like the heritage industry garbage that they truly are.

After releasing a number of short, sharp and fast punk 7"s they managed to alienate nearly their entire fan base by releasing the 17 minutes long 'Looking For Gold' which featured 19 guitar tracks, a three minute long drum solo and four minutes of whistling. Their aggressively provocative nature led them to releasing records with anarchistic/socialist content but packaged with Nazi imagery. They were forced to publicly nail their anti-fascist colours to the mast after getting beaten up on stage in Toronto in 2004.

The artwork here is more Wagnerian than anything else, and the theme of the album appears to be the unreliability of human perception (although the lyrics are so abstruse and esoteric as to be virtually unintelligible). There is a direct line connecting The Ramones and The Damned to Fucked Up in that it is ostensibly just fast, tuneful, three chord garage rock, but just as the album is about the complexity hidden behind our interpretation of outside reality, musically this contains great depths. This is signposted by the appearance of Final Fantasy man and Arcade Fire arranger Mr Owen Pallet on violin on a couple of tracks.

Opener 'Crusades' is nearly seven minutes long and this allows the band time to build up leitmotifs and looping drum patterns. The epic 'David Comes To Life' even contains what sounds like a male voice choir (but is just band members singing back up). There is a particular gripe of many sound engineers at the moment and that most rock (and pop) is absolutely crippled with compression, which 'evens out' the sound on a track and makes everything loud. This makes the record sound great on the radio but terrible on your stereo. Fucked Up are a good example of how to make a really, really loud record full of dynamism and epic space without putting it through the compression grinder.

I could go on and on about this record but I won't, other than to say any self respecting fan of punk or hardcore should not be without this album.

Play Louder

John Doran