In 2009, Toronto-based punk rock group Fucked Up won the Polaris Prize for The Chemistry of Common Life, and in 2011, they created the acclaimed epic punk-rock opera David Comes to Life. In 2014, what does the Damian Abraham-fronted sextet do for their encore? On Glass Boys, their latest effort, they give us one hell of a shotgun start.
Now 13-years on the hardcore punk road, Fucked Up have never been criticized as “up to their old tricks” or even “taking a back to basics approach” because their sound has always been in its own orbit. Glass Boys can be considered a ‘maturing’, although Fucked Up have always been old souls.
The inevitable slide into veteran status would be more difficult for other bands, but Fucked Up meld their penchant for experimentalism with stalwart hardcore sensibilities without incident. Drummer Jason Falco has essentially created a quadruple whammy for the album’s percussion by recording two simultaneous layered drum tracks, and then layering two more simultaneous drum tracks on top. It’s an effect that drives the energy and adds a freakishly-weird sound that they execute brilliantly.
Fucked Up have brought friends along for the ride who know about a rapidly changing audience and landscape. Joining them include the Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie, Alexisonfire’s George Pettit and Dinosaur Jr’s J. Mascis.
On the album’s first single “Paper the House”, the band is in on the punchline of a joke being told at their own expense. The idea of non-stop aging is one of the most significant themes on Glass Boys, which comes out in lines like “The way I make my living is driving me insane – And all the centuries carbonate me .” It’s both sobering and funny.
For all it’s worth, Glass Boys allows Fucked Up to ponder what it means to be aging in the eternally ADD-addled youthfulness of punk. On “Sun Glass”, singer Damian Abraham sets the album’s tone with lines like “Life turns a page – When we turn away, the kids just aren’t the same”, indicating that the group’s true maturity is recognizing the bittersweet nature of life is decay, change without “Landslide”-level drama.
Make no mistake: Fucked Up is dealing with an identity crisis regarding their age, but as artists, they’ve never been more assured. Glass Boys is punchy, melodic, tongue-in-cheek, equal measures heavy AND sentimental, and most of all: brave.
Glass Boys will be released on June 3rd via Arts & Crafts/Matador.
Essential Tracks: “Paper the House”, “Sun Glass”, “Lead by Hand”, and “Glass Boys”.