Fucked Up - The Chemistry Of Common Life
Matador Records
Experimental Hardcore
11 songs (55:20)
Release year: 2008
Matador Records
Reviewed by James

Despite boasting a name that assures they'll never gain mainstream success (though, ironically the band have played several MTV performances in their native Canada) Fucked Up became quite hyped act upon the release of 2006's Hidden World. Since then, however, they've slipped under the radar, despite staying active, continuing to tour and release new music. But for whatever reason, and despite signing to large indie label Matador, I actually had no idea The Chemistry Of Common Life had been released until I saw the disc sitting on a shop shelf during a Christmas shopping trip, it's price tag of six pounds calling out to me. Of course, I had to snap it up, and I'm certainly glad I did, as it's one of the freshest and most exciting releases this year has seen.

Fucked Up have always had something unconventional about them, ranging from the esoteric (the band's use of sigils in their artwork) to the just plain bizarre (recording a charity single with Nelly Furtado, and no, I'm not making that up). But although Hidden World had unusually lengthy track times, the music contained within was still straight-up, visceral, brawling punk rock. Here, though, they've upped the experimentation massively. The band's line-up has been expanded to a six-piece, the triple guitar assault of Gulag, 10000 Marbles and new addition Young Governor adding a richer, almost shoegaze sound to proceedings (lead single No Epiphany contains 16 guitar tracks). A further melodic edge is added in the frequent use of guest vocalists, offering a pleasant respite from Father Damian's mouth-full-of-gravel barking. Members of Canadian indie rock supergroup Broken Social Scene provide the holler-along chorus to Son The Father, while Alexisonfire guitarist Dallas Green contributes to Black Albino Bones. The hardcore purists out there will be complaning about Fucked Up selling hardcore to the hipster masses, but really, they've been making that accusation since Hidden World. What's more, unusual instrumentation abounds here, from the bongo-laden Magic Word to the organ intro to Royal Swan (the song features also features a duet between the guttural roar of Father Damian and the soaring, gorgeous vocals of Katie Stelmanis, for what it's worth). The record even begins not with some furious punk rock, but a flute solo (!) If you're not convinced that Fucked Up are now a far artier proposition, just check interlude Golden Seal, which features horn flourishes Toby Driver would be proud of.

Upon your first listen, you may be a little dismayed that Fucked Up have ditched the violence of old in favour of venturing into uncharted terrain (Twice Born is the only track that comes close to anything on Hidden World). But The Chemistry Of Common Life is a grower, to say the least. After the initial shock of the new, you'll find on the most exciting hardcore records in years, every listen yielding something new to the listener (it took me some time to notice the buried acoustic guitars in the title track). So, don't let Fucked Up slip under the radar for a second time, and give The Chemistry Of Common Life a go. It's a massive step up from Hidden World, and hopefully should gain Fucked Up the big things they were promised first time around.

Killing Songs :
All, but standouts are Son The Father, Black Albino Bones, Royal Swan
James quoted 89 / 100
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