Over its 10-year course, Canada’s Fucked Up has established itself as arguably the most prolific and innovative hardcore act around, having released an endless stream of 7″ singles that push the genre’s boundaries with a sound that incorporates psychedelic elements and heady, intricate guitar work. Now, after turning heads outside of the scene and winning a Polaris Prize on the back of 2008′s Chemistry Of Common Life, the band has launched its most audacious effort to date. Enter David Comes To Life, an 80-minute rock opera exploring love, loss and blame amidst the bombing of a late-’70s British town.
Written in four acts, the narrative follows protagonist David Eliade, a lightbulb factory worker who falls in love with a girl named Veronica who soon gets killed in a vaguely described disaster that befalls the town. From there, things get convoluted as Eliade falls into depression and starts to blame himself for his lost love. Some girl named Vivian tries to console him as he argues with the narrator, Octavio St. Laurent, who also is apparently part of the action, somehow. By the end of the story, Eliade comes to terms with his guilt and moves on with his life, or something like that.
The concept works about as well as you’d expect, seeing as this is a band whose vocalist screams the lyrics in a barely decipherable bull roar. Unless you’ve got the patience to trudge through the wordy, obtuse lyrics on the record’s dedicated website, you probably won’t get what’s going on, and you probably won’t get it even if you do. But that’s OK because David Comes To Life doesn’t need the concept in order to hold its own.
The album sees a further evolution in Fucked Up’s sound. Throughout the 18 tracks, the band’s hardcore roots ebb and flow alongside borderline-pop and anthemic Springsteen rock sounds. This is the most melodic the group has ever been, with tracks like “Queen Of Hearts” and single “The Other Shoe” featuring female vocals as prominently as frontman Pink Eyes’ aggressive growl.
As with any album of this length, the songs start to run together around the midpoint, but upon repeated listens, the record’s flow becomes more digestible and some fascinating songwriting flourishes start to stick out. On the end of “Remember My Name,” chugging guitars and drumrolls peter out into a cappella harmonies, and the clever lyrical play on “Life In Paper” uses literary devices as a literary device (“You left your role with your passive voice/Our outcome is not your choice”).
To hear the band members tell it, David Comes To Life is the record they’ve been working up to for the past 10 years, a grandiose statement that closes off the first chapter of Fucked Up’s history. It’s anybody’s guess as to how they’ll follow something like this, but we’re already excited for chapter two.