Review Summary: Ontario 5-piece produce one of the most challenging Hardcore Punk records of all time for their debut.
If there was ever going to be a modern band that was going to completely split its audience in (post)post-modern 2006, I think here we would have our answer. Punk Rock's best kept secret came out of Toronto, Canada and as their catchy name suggests, couldn't really care less who takes notice. Of course, they knew someone
would notice as the amount of confidence exerted by every guitar line and vocal howl on this record shows; it is enough to ignore any piece of inevitable piece of criticism that 'oh, the songs are too long for hardcore' and 'I've heard these riffs before in the 80's.' But if you are part of the cult that let F.U into your lives and really felt what it is they are doing, chances are this was one of your favourite records of the year, and potentially, of all time.
The simple fact is, is that not for a long, long, long time have a hardcore punk record felt so alive, so exciting, so full of energy. The fact that this band bothered to do the maturing process before releasing a full release LP is very asserting, and the production of this record (both the incredible instrumental side and the packaging, promotion and general air of mystery surrounding the band) just makes it all the more exciting. Opener 'Crusades' completely smashes, kicks and screams this record (after a lengthy feedback ridden, female vocal intro set alongside apocalyptic sound bytes) into action and is a fantastic introduction to a truly massive
record. And this continues on into the first few songs, 'Baiting the Public' for instance is just a fantastic balls-to-the-wall rock out that verges between Black Flag's original style with Pink Floyd's psychedelic rock. Or the "shout-a-long" chuggery of 'Two Snakes' and its title that is confidently riffed though on.
The first half of the album plays like a conventional punk rock album in its conviction and appearance which seems very much convincing enough to make you jump, dance and shout "YEAH!", but then from the title track 'Hidden World' onwards, the tracks get bigger, more expansive and more experimental, all without losing the sound that got it there in the first place - the title track itself end on just a repeating melody being whistled for thirty seconds in a chirpy manner.
Because of all its brashness, its obvious homages to Black Flag and The Clash and subtle hints at experimentation, 'Hidden World' as a whole makes F.U's appeal all the more attractive. Yes, there is a fairly linear rhythm running throughout this record, but its the spaces where it branches off (much like Godspeed You! Black Emperor) that gives this record its flow. To a lot of 'Hidden World''s peers, it will all just seem a bit too much of the same throughout, but for the rest, it is one of the most challenging, mature, thought provoking and most of all; God-dammed "alive" feeling modern punk rock record you'll hear giving the whole genre the massive kick up the arse it thoroughly deserves.
Yes, it is a very long album and yes, there is a lot of repetition, but if you can just turn it up to 11 and sit through it and stay interested (thanks to the few small breathers this record does offer, i.e; the wonderful end of 'Blaze of Glory' and its complete anti-climax after the building crescendo), feel the incredible production, listen to the intense density with the huge amount of layers and appreciate the intelligence, in lyrics, songwriting and concept, this could well be your new favourite record and one you'll return to time and time again afterwards.