Search The Line of Best Fit
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Fucked Up - Glass Boys

"Fucked Up - Glass Boys"

Release date: 09 June 2014
Fucked Up Glass Boys
17 June 2014, 09:30 Written by Michael James Hall
With 2011’s David Comes To Life, Ontarians Fucked Up assured themselves a reputation as a truly unique band. They’d taken the tropes and tricks of hardcore, charged them with instrumental melody and, in that instance, turned out an epic four-part concept album about a guy working in a lightbulb factory during Thatcher’s Britain. The strangeness of the record didn’t end there – its lyrics were constantly questioning the very story they were telling, the narrator of the tale proving unreliable, evil even. To go one further mile into the beyond David Comes To Life was a huge success, capitalising on their 2009 Polaris award-winning The Chemistry of Modern Life and ending up near or at the peak of every end of year list that mattered.

That same year vocalist Damian ‘Pinkeyes’ Abraham put the band on indefinite hiatus, being unable to raise a family and run a touring band at the same time. It seemed that a band on the verge of a previously unthinkable crossover to the (relative) mainstream may have tripped themselves at the last hurdle.

Yet here we are just three years later, and Abraham seems to have decided to address his faltering faith in his ability to be a rock n’ roll leader by, well, making a record about it. It’s just the sort of perverse act the band specialize in and it’s no surprise to find that Glass Boys is a record that chooses not to continue down the same path as David…, instead keeping things brief, speedy, musically dense and thematically focused; we’re looking at Abraham’s place in Fucked Up, Fucked Up’s place in hardcore, hardcore’s place in the mainstream and ultimately the awkward lop-sided triangle formed between artist, audience and legacy.

It does share with David… a sense of narrative in that while Abraham spends blistering tracks like “Echo Boomer” and the stunning, addictive “Paper the House” alternately celebrating (“The records we used to play…that still vibrate”) and doubting (“I’m glad some of them stayed till the end/To watch a self righteous young man turn parody”) the cult of music he’s pinned his fortunes to, by its conclusion on the title track he’s perhaps found some peace with it, offering “What did I used to do before I did nothing?” and the resounding, emphatic “There’s a tunnel at the end of the nightmare where you will find me…I’m a glass boy”. In this way it resembles Mac McCaughan’s similar struggles with the value of music on Superchunk’s mighty, and slightly more directly titled I Hate Music from last year.

Like that record, this one hardly puts a melodic foot wrong – from the tender, verge-of-tears shred of “Sun Glass” to the bar fight/breakdown/triumph of “The Great Divide” (no it’s not a cover of the McClain sisters modern classic, sadly) Mike Haliechuk’s guitar lines are beautifully emotional yet as savage and unpredictable as they need to be to propel the record forward. The rhythm section here of Jonah Falco on drums and Sandy Miranda on bass stand out – particularly the arcing basslines Miranda throws out on tracks like the burning “Led By Hand”, which features a backing vocal and brief solo from J Mascis that adds plenty but leads you to perhaps wish the band would occasionally broaden their sonic palette.

Yet when they do, on proggy mis-step “Warm Change” and the sleepy ‘90s-aping “DET”, it just doesn’t work. Psych-rock is not what they do, it’s not where they live and it’s a shame they feel the need to drift into lazier material on what is, after all, such a brief quickstep of an album.

Gripes aside, the finest moment here is the glorious (ahem) emotional hardcore of “The Art Of Patrons” in which muscular, entwined riffs carry Abraham’s ever monotone voice in a tirade of slef-loathing that questions art’s relationship with commerce – “We drain the privileged for scraps/In exchange for the clothes on our backs/Live life like there’s no other way” and later “…the sacred is profane” and the damning “We will find a way to let each and every one down”.

While Abraham struggles with his demons and Haliechuk continues to turn out miasmic guitar lines that dive between classic and math rock, sometimes in the space of a single song, Fucked Up are a valuable and uproarious proposition. Perhaps that great crossover will now never happen, but they’ve made a refreshing, bold record here, that, a few trips aside, leaps the barriers of genre with ease and satisfies throughout.

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