Album Review: Fucked Up

6 mins read

David Comes to Life by Fucked Up

David.  Oh, David.  Who are you?  How about this?

If only Fucked Up had covered this song on David Comes to Life. The album would have been The Best Fucking Thing Ever, instead of settling for just Pretty Fucking Awesome. I myself don’t know nearly the high volume of Daves that Bruce McCullough knows (off-handedly, the only Dave I can think of is my girlfriend’s dad), but that’s another matter.

I’m still trying to get to know David. He’s difficult: long, overwrought, startlingly brilliant in flashes but a little boring, maybe, in the way that Michael Bay movies get astoundingly boring to me; after all, there’s only so long I can watch HUGE STUFF before I get a tuckered out. Every song on this album is at about the same pitch, at about the same speed, at about the same intensity. Damian can sing one note: YARRRRGHHHHHH. This is punk music. Good, old school punk music – and, as with most good, old school punk music, it’s way too in love with its own importance. Fucked Up are getting at something BIG here. I’m a little lost. But not in a bad way.

Granted, I bought this thing on iTunes. I don’t have the liner notes, but I’m told these lyrics tell some grandiose story about a man named, yes, David. I would get to know him better with these liner notes, I’m sure – but in a way, I’m glad I don’t have them. I’m focused on the music, and not the story. Narrative-heavy “concept” albums usually take me a while to embrace, just because the stories are usually pretty crappy – like, on about the level of the sort of shit I get from the least of my creative writing students (I’m looking at you, Colin Meloy). So I’m sort of happy that this part of David Comes to Life is nebulous. I’m lost without these liner notes. I didn’t grow up a hardcore kid: my ears aren’t trained to understand a fucking word that Damian yells.

Another thing about this band: The Chemistry of Common Life is still my favorite album of 2008. It’s not hardcore. It’s barely even punk. It’s hard alternative rock. Chemistry is another point on the hard alternative line that includes Zen Arcade, In Utero, Source Tags and Codes, and a lot of stuff in between. Chemistry intended to be huge (I mean, look at the title, for Christ’s sake). But I feel like the songs were more varied on that one: “Son the Father,” “Days of Last,” and “Black Albino Blues” all feel markedly different from each other, but each the work of a sonically recognizable band with a clear vision. Nevertheless, they try some different stuff. They stretch. They blow the fucker out of the water.

Maybe the vision on David Comes to Life is too clear. Despite its conceptual grandiosity, I feel like it’s the work of a band that knows the one thing it does well, and does it over and over again. I still love the sound of those guitars (and there are a LOT of guitars on this album). I love when a female voice snaps in to compliment Abraham. And I love the last track: there’s a little Springsteen-by-way-of-Hold Steady on it – especially the end, which sounds a lot like the last twenty seconds of “Hornets! Hornets!” and, for a moment, tricked me into thinking that “Cattle and the Creeping Things” was coming up next. But all this said, I’ll be honest: the album gets a little fucking dull (shout out to Gary Oldman and Ted McLoof). “Life in Paper,” “Ship of Fools,” “A Little Death,” and “Inside a Frame” all sound virtually the same to me. This album masters one sound. This is, of course, an insanely difficult thing to do, and, really, this is an insanely good album. But I guess I’ve always preferred the crazy albums that are overflowing with sounds. I mean, what’s your favorite Beatles album? I like Revolver and White Album. They do everything, and do it awesomely. Chemistry overflowed with sounds; David, not so much.

Benjamin Rybeck carries with him many half-formed opinions about things he doesn’t know much about. He is the editor-in-chief of Sonora Review, a graduate of the MFA program at the University of Arizona, and a teacher of creative writing. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Ninth Letter, DIAGRAM, Natural Bridge, Guernica, and elsewhere.