Review Summary: Beat your fucking steering wheel.
The time is two o’ clock in the morning, the setting the basement of a college library, where desperate crammers hopped up on caffeine or study drugs make last- minute exam preparations. I’m there, in the abyss of my second consecutive all-nighter, itching for a smoke break, catching up on hundreds of pages of existential psychology. If ever I am to experience a crisis of meaning, it is at this moment; hallucinating from sleep deprivation, I find the subjects of my reading blending into reality, and I marvel at how very, very f
ucked up I feel. As for the book-skimming, internet-prowling zombies surrounding me? They’re in their separate worlds, I tell myself, so they don’t matter, despite the fact that they are as f
ucked as I am. Later, as I finish my pack of American Spirits under the fresh, May-morning sky, I will realize the extent of my overreaction – but at the present, there’s only mortality salience and I.
Enter Damian Abraham, a hardcore punk vocalist (and sometimes Fox News contributor) known also as Pink Eyes. Following Pink Eyes’ lead are 10,000 Marbles, Young Governor, Gulag, Mustard Gas, and Mr. Jo: three guitarists, a bassist, and a drummer, respectively. Apart, they are as ordinary as your humble suburban reviewer; together, they are F
ucked Up, a Canadian sextet of musicians and recipients of the 2009 Polaris Music Prize for their sophomore album, The Chemistry of Common Life
. It is now three years post-Chemistry
, and the pseudonymous six have returned with David Comes to Life
, their cerebral punk drama in four acts. The storyline is as follows: a man (David) and a woman (Veronica), both presumably employed at a British light bulb factory, fall deeply in love. Veronica kicks the bucket within minutes, and poor David peers through a hole in the album’s fourth wall to realize he’s a purely fictitious figment of Octavio (the narrator). Other weird stuff happens, too, like the irrelevant appearance of Vivian (witness to Veronica’s death) in Act III, or like David’s inexplicable “rebirth” in Act IV. The astute indie nerd may pause here and think, “wait a second, this is just an angrier plagiarisation of Owen Pallett’s Heartland
,” and in a way, the nerd is right. In the battle for the better metalyrical concept album, however, F
ucked Up wins. Bear with me.
In which the seemingly disconnected Parts I and II of this review are reconciled
. First of all, forget Owen Pallett for the time being; I’m saving him for the finale. More importantly, what makes David Comes to Life
’s nearly eighty-minute runtime – not to mention its pretension – forgivable is its pure, relatable force. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say the whole love-story-devolving-into-existential-crisis thing is merely the band’s way of embodying the frustrations of their own characters (David’s voice is funneled through Damian’s, after all). David’s rallying cry of “let’s emote” doesn’t only project make-believe rage, but extraordinarily authentic human rage, my rage, your rage, and so on. Is it overblown? Of course it is, but then again, so was my adderall-fueled tantrum in the school library, but that does not make it any less genuine. As for the music: with more hooks than a Titus Andronicus record, catchier riffs than half of whatever punk rock you listen to, and near classics like “Ship of Fools,” “The Other Shoe,” and “Truth I Know,” David Comes to Life
is the windows-down interstate rocker of the summer. Occasional filler, punctuated by the fact that the album is literally seventy-eight minutes of raw energy, makes F
ucked Up’s nightmare at the opera a flawed and taxing listen, but listen to it loud, and listen to it proud; this one’s rewards outweigh its minor blemishes.
“I’ll see you again when our story gets retold,” David snarls at Veronica or, perhaps, the listener, as the curtain falls in “Lights Go Up,” the album’s damn-near-cathartic epilogue; thus, in a flash of possibly unintentional brilliance, F
ucked Up address and justify David
’s most inherent flaw, that it’s been done before. The funny thing is, originality is less “being new” than taking crayons to the white spots in old coloring books, touching up on dated blueprints. In this regard, F
ucked Up harvest the land our pilgrim friend Mr. Pallett charted out last year, and now you can eat of what its gritty soil yields. So beat your f
ucking steering wheel. Pink Eyes is shouting at you, and should shout back at him, at least until your engine cools.