Hardcore Punk Musical Time I Guess?
This is my first dance with Fucked Up (which seems fitting since this is the first review of my recommendation/must hears/classic series The Bucket List), and before I even start the review...what a fucking BAND NAME! Fucked Up may be my new favorite band name of all time, aside from maybe King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Band name aside, this is the first album i'm listening by these guys/gals from Toronto...and honestly I don't know why i'm picking THIS album to start off with these guys!
Yes, this is currently under the 'illustrious' Must Head Album cataogry and is one of the most highly celebrated Hardcore Punk albums to come out in a good long while, with SPIN calling it the best album of 2011 (The year with Helplessness Blues, Exmilitary, XXX, Wildfire, and James Blake...this is their pick? Goddamn SPIN!) but why didn't I choose the more recent and more popular 'Dose Your Dreams', the more critically acclaimed 'The Chemistry Of Common Life' and the 'Year of the Blank' series that seems like I'd like that equally as much as this, so why 'David Comes to Life'?
Honestly, the way I found it was by hearing 'The Other Shoe' on a Spotify Radio (one of the very few times the Spotify recommendation system has actually found me a song/artist I like), and let's just say I was mindblown! The progression, the guitars, the harmonies, the writing and the overall 'punk meets musical' aesthetic really fucking kicked my ass, so after a couple of streams I just HAD to see what this album was all about.
And the punk meets musical statement makes complete sense with this album since...well...this is a hardcore punk rock opera. Yep.
This is a hardcore punk musical based on a man in the 1970s named David (who works at a lighbulb factory) who falls in love with a women called Veronica, but ends up killing her with a bomb he made to destroy the factory in a political statement...or did he? That's basically the very brief plot synopsis of this hour and 17 minutes hardcore Toronto punk album, broken up into a 4 acts with characters, plot twists, political overtones and Jesus Christ this sounds insane me describing it back in review form. And it sounds insane for me trying to EXPLAIN what this album is because...well, the albums insane.
While stylistically its pretty cohesive and doesn't really stray too far away from the 'trash your throat out' style vocals and blasting drum work-esq punk music with a little bit more of a dramatic flair to the lyrics and production, it's really in the fine details that this album really brings out the insanity, especially in the writing front. So, with all of THAT in mind...with the sweeping, giant concept in mind that sounds like it's more suited to be part of a movie then a punk album:
Is it any good?
Well, actually, yes!
Goddamn, this thing is a lot of fun. It's got such a bang in its step, with every stomp tha this album presents firmly stamping you in the head with all of it's might. The vocals sound like they are pulling me by the collar and telling me 'the worlds FUCKED mate!', with these genuinely glorious guitar passages that make everything feel grand and almost like if a Motorhead/Bloc Party side project started covering Green Day songs, springing to mind the best of the early 2000s rock music into mind, both tonally and lyrically.
And if i'm strictly talking music on this record...it does get a little samey after a while if i'm being honest? Before you fling your pitchforks at me, I LIKE this album a whole lot. Like, a lot a lot. But that being said, at a feature length timestamp and 18 tracks, it does get really samey really quickly. If there was more variation in this album music wise then i'd definitely excuse this, but it just stays in the Hardcore Punk style the ENTIRE record, and you really start to feel the fatigue by Act 3. Listening to this album in one sitting feels like I need a 10 year sleep after, it just tires me out! I know that this sound the band has is definitely good enough to stand up even beyond the concept, but wow this gets tiring FAST.
And lets talk about that giant concept, aye? Before I start however, I must say: If you haven't heard this album before, listen to it and go in blind because it's a mindfuck trying to follow this story as it goes along and I don't want to spoil too much.
Basically...David is the 4th wall breaking cousin of American Idiot. It feels a lot like something that Coheed and Cambria would come up with, but honestly it feels like you can ACTUALLY follow it, akin to something like The Wall, but less grand in scale and more interested in telling its story with brute force then with subtly. It basically decides after the track Truth I Know that they are going to make the narrator that has been coming in and out of the story is actually been the KILLER of Davids romantic interest Veronica, and has been basically writing Davids story since the beginning. And this is revealed by another character, Vivian, who gets introduced in track 8 and By God is the concept here very very VERY High Concept. You're probably going to need to have a lyric sheet handy just to figure out where the fuck you are in this album.
I'm not going to break down the exact details of this album because...well, A) I've done it before with HTLMD and B) I just think you should listen to the album. If you still don't get it after the album is over, then this nifty little article can help greatly with understanding what in gods name is going on: https://www.vulture.com/2011/06/fucked_up_explain_the_epic_tal.html
And, with me being the 'Story Review Guy' (for better or for worse recently), what do I think about the story being told. I mean...it's pretty weird, but it's charming! A good chunk of the story is spent in this nihilistic sense of self deprecation, with David saying 'I feel like shit!' and Octavio going 'Yes! You're correct!' for pretty much the entirity of Act 2, which can get slightly tedious, especially when you know you have an hour still to go. Having the whole thing continue on a endless loop is a nice piece of pessimism that makes the story that much more spicey, and the overall twist of the narrator being the villian is actually a really good twist that I didn't see coming.
Overall, this is a pretty great album, even if it does tire me the fuck out every-time I listen to this album. It's an experience I would highly recommend to people but...goddamn I don't know if i'd come back to this album in its entirety again. I'm for sure coming back to the highlights, and maybe the whole thing if i'm just CRAVING it, but I seriously recommend this album at lest once.
Favorite Jams: The Other Shoe, Remember My Name, Truth I Know
Lest Favorite: Ship of Fools