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Fucked Up – Couple Tracks

on January 28, 2010, 3:15pm

Toronto’s Fucked Up identify themselves as a band influenced by “first-and second-wave hardcore.” And so, after about eight years under the influence, they’ve come at us with a 2-disc compilation of what should be their greatest singles. Ever.

I should start by explaining that in the musical mystery that is punk rock, more often than not a certain dissatisfaction with the current (or even past) state of society comes into songwriting. And music-arranging. And basically everything else involved in the process of making a record. That being stated, I can move on to what I can only label the angry staccato bellowing of revolution: Vocalist Pink Eyes’ gruff growl at times overpowers and overshadows the excellently orchestrated instrumentals.

The almost “anything goes” attitude that is elemental of hardcore punk can at times be a detriment to cohesiveness and melody. Although these two qualities may not be on the minds of the musicians, it is quite difficult to find a vocalist who can reconcile chords with vocal chords. Fucked Up’s got talent and their delightfully simple riffs will defend that. However, on certain tracks when the vocals kick in, it’s time to call on Karen O to salvage what would be an otherwise kick-ass song.

Inadequate voices will ruin a song, and while ol’ Pink Eyes screams very close to the edge of this figurative cliff, he does scream in the band for a reason. On Disc 1, “Generation” is the nice, cohesive in which all of the band’s sounds work together towards a homogenous musical purpose: punk fuckin’ rock. The opener, “No Pasarán”, however, while not as angelically melodic and virtuous as “Generation”, is a strategic choice in beginning track.

Borrowing from a Spanish Civil War slogan, the guys put to work that perfectionist style they’ve got so down and incorporate clips from old war movies into the song’s introduction. They do have seamless production, I must say. Listening to this record, one could think the songs and mixed-in sounds are all being played live, since the transitions are so smooth. It’s a nice touch, having that overt anti-fascist political commentary, though their reasons for choosing the Spanish Civil War are obscure.

Fucked Up have been hailed as “not carbon-copy punks” for their melodies and inventiveness, but throughout Couple Tracks’ first disc there is not much to admire individually from each track. Do not misunderstand; it is a great punk record: Most of their songs are composed of fast rolling cavalry drums and strident battling guitars juxtaposed with unintelligible, rough roars of the vocalist. It’s just that there isn’t much more to dissect. Not to say any genre is dead, but the fact that after a few songs individual track qualities disappear is indicative of the fact that they vary very little within the punk spectrum.

The compilation, nevertheless, accurately portrays the band’s history and musical evolution, as the end of Disc 1 (and Disc 2) comes in with more refined, melodic guitar interludes and a bit less aggressive riffs. (See “No Epiphany.”) For these purposes, all of the tracks chosen were key—otherwise the band’s growth would have been documented alternatively.

Disc 2 stands tall, carrying what could possibly be the best track on the entire record: closer “David Comes to Life”. Adding a little variety, this goodbye number is representative of their alleged “hippie sellout” era, where they invited guest musicians to match their sound with string instruments like violins (which they earlier wrote about banning: “Ban Violins”, Disc 1). Had they included more pieces like “David Comes to Life”, the compilation may have been more widely appealing, but in the end, a musician’s work is not for the following, but for the music itself.

The entire album is a big, anti-establishmentarian “FUCK YOU!,” and if we can commend this band for one thing, it’s holding up those punk standards some of us thought washed right away with the decades of yore. Therefore, please, do indulge in this one if you enjoy something loud, controversial, fast, and hard.

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