Album Review: FUCKED UP One Day

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If there’s a band that’s not going to deliver very much of a Metal Injection on this day, or any other day for that matter, it’s Fucked Up. However, their ties to the general swath of extreme music are inarguable with members past and present, as well as guests, having credentials that connect them deep to the hardcore scene. At the same time, the band’s history is littered with such a variety of sound, participants, incidents, antics, accolades and vitriol that it’s difficult to both follow and be a fan of the entirety of Fucked Up if you’re the type of person who likes/wants bands to sit still and do one thing only. They may have started as a kernel of members of Toronto’s hardcore punk scene, but have exploded to incorporate almost every (sub)genre one cares to imagine to present as a truly progressive rock band without sounding anything like progressive rock’s own narrow definition.

With that in mind, as someone who grew up in Toronto and still lives in the area, I still have little to no idea how Fucked Up became the media darlings they have been since their formation in the early 2000’s, and how this status has remained over the course of their existence. They’ve been cover stars on just about every alt-weekly news rag that has come and gone, their shows are rarely not sold out and it got to the point where vocalist Damien Abraham was the one time host of a Much Music (Canadian MTV equivalent) video show back in the days when music video channels actually played music videos.

Then again, given that the band’s resumé includes playing a 12-hour set in a New York City storefront, starting a near riot when playing in the bathroom at the MTV Live studio, self-releasing a soundtrack to a Tod Browning movie from 1928 and curating something called Fuck Fest (featuring themselves, Holy Fuck, Fuck and Fuck Buttons) in the Austrian town of Fucking, it’s almost surprising that the media has even bothered to listen to their musical output and look beyond the antics and the drama surrounding a moniker with a curse word in it (how very un-American of our Canadian media!). 

But listening is what we do around these parts and One Day is the latest addition to their voluminous Melvins-like discography. The concept for its creation revolves around the idea of guitarist and chief song-smith, Mike Haliechuk writing the album over the course of one day — actually three eight hour sessions totaling 24 hours — with everyone else adding their parts remotely while adhering to the one day rule. With that in mind, the urgency, energy and immediacy of this album is no surprise. What is surprising is how developed and cohesive it sounds.   

The band’s umpteenth recording (and sixth full-length, or 15th, depending on how you look at it) kicks off with “Found” which sets the stage for and delivers one of the album’s defining features: triple-stacked harmonies incorporating an interplay of dual harsh/clean vocals with guitars. It’s an interesting mix in that ultra-melodic and infectious breakaway single note melodies are mirrored by vocals that sound like Abraham’s beard and Haliechuk’s more gossamer pipes.

The second defining feature of this track — and by default, much of the album — is how it manages to combine the sounds of Dinosaur Jr., Triumph, Ramones and Rocket From the Crypt into an anthemic proggy melodic-punk slurry. Tracks like “Huge New Her” and “Broken Little Boys” utilize more of the band’s hardcore punk roots, adding a hypnotic and haunting lurch (in the case of the former) and some sock-hopping Ramones-ish punk and melodic outtakes from Boston’s first album (the latter) to some four chord slamming. Whereas “Roar” cranks out solid four-on-the-floor garage rock with a helix-like guitar swirl in the background, “Falling Right Under” brings up images of The Traveling Wilburys being in possession of operational testicular fortitude instead of dusty and aged classic rock whining and “Cicada” possesses a serious Dinosaur Jr. jangle and if you don’t think there’s merit to Dinosaur Jr.’s connection to the world of heavy music, you should take that up Decibel editor Albert Mudrian, who’s probably wearing a Dino Jr. shirt right now and recently inducted You’re Living All Over Me into the magazine’s Hall of Fame.

The bigger highlights of One Day — to these ears, anyway, come in three forms:  “Lords of Kensington” (though “Kings of Kensington” would have been a more Toronto appropriate title, hur-hur) which has choral vocals playing off of a ghost note-heavy drum pattern heavily indebted to the criminally underrated Neil Cooper (Therapy?, ex-The Beyond) that pitters and patters alongside a loosely strummed power chord sequence; “I Think I Might Be Weird” summons the rosy-cheeked, sunshine of the late-great Fang Island, a band whose prog-pop-power reign was best described as “the sound of everyone high-fiving everyone else,” mixed with amphitheater-sized guitar chugging and accented by violin shots and falsetto vocals; and the title track and the song that initially pulled yours truly into this album with its ridiculously lean and catchy alt-rock riff swish, humungous chorus and the way the contrasted vocals are accented by clean resolves during the last two beats of each vocal line.

Overall, One Day is not only another oddball shaped feather in Fucked Up’s oddball-shaped cap, but it’s an experiment that has gleaned wildly successful results as it stands as a monument to spontaneity, thinking on the fly and the power of immediate inspiration.

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