Saturday, September 26, 2009

Only A Broken Mind Can Understand...

I was delighted to see that Fucked Up nabbed the 2009 Polaris Music Prize. Though I haven't heard any of the other albums on the shortlist, I have little doubt that FU's 2008 opus The Chemistry Of Common Life was vastly better than the competition. Shit, it's better than almost anything else out there.

Hopefully they'll use the 20,000 Canadian Dollars (a pathetic $19,000 US) to add additional guitar overdubs to "Year Of The Ox."

I've been considering a post on Fucked Up for while, but I haven't been able to get the angle quite right. I've poured over Chemistry, which I would retroactively call at least the third best album of 2008, attended a concert, and listened to the band's recent singles, but something about the group--who are not purveyors of subtlety--evades me.

Nevertheless, I can't shake the feeling that Fucked Up are important. What they do isn't particularly radical--a fusion of hardcore punk with layers of massive guitar overdubs.* Mixing genres itself is hardly news, and in the 21st century it's practically de rigueur. But Fucked Up's sound has the benefit of being singular. There's an earnestness to their music, and sense that they're exploring new territory. And their hybrid genre sounds enormous, big enough to cast shadows.

What excites me about Fucked Up has to do, in large measure, with how organic their innovation seems. Much has been made of The xx lately, and I enjoy their debut album. Their sound, however, comes as something of a graft: R&B beatmaking attached to slow, sultry guitars and hushed vocals.** On Chemistry, FU's graft goes unnoticed; the swirling guitars are a part of the propulsive whole, just as Husker Du's infusion of melody into hardcore sounded completely natural. Like Husker Du, Fucked Up have added to the vocabulary of punk, and it's an influence future bands will have to contend with.

Fucked Up's publicist never responded to my request for an inteview with FU guitarist and sonic mastermind 10,000 Marbles, so I'll cut off my praise here.

*Nathan noted that Chemistry's overdubs are more reminiscent of The Smashing Pumpkins than My Bloody Valentine. 2009's "Year Of The Rat" single sees the band moving toward the enveloping textures of Kevin Shields' guitar work.

**The novelty of this sound has been overplayed--take another listen to Low's
Drums And Guns or Beach Houses's Devotion.

1 comment:

  1. Fucked Up does indeed point toward a new direction in punk music in a particularly Canadian way: the original punks eschewed studio overdubs not only because it was costly, but also because the lack of immediacy and vitality of too many overdubs was apparent in many of the corporate bands they despised. In today's music-making market, overdubbing is easy for anyone with a computer, and a band can retain its vitality by remaining an open-ended collective, which puts Fucked Up somewhere in a continuum that not only includes the Pumpkins, MVB, Minor Threat, the Cro-Magnons, etc., but also sychronically is representative of the more open-ended approaches to band politics as shown by Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire, etc., bands with like 11 members each.

    This is an easy way to find a use for massive overdubs and replicate that sound live. Corgan tried to convince Iha to add another guitarist to flesh out their live sound, but Iha was always against it, as he felt that adding another anonymous background guitarist would betray who was playing on the album. There needs to be more people like that.

    Nothing wrong with sounding like or trying to emulate the Smashing Pumpkins, I hope you know.