Punk’s a funny old thing. To many, the word conjures up a certain mental stereotype of loutish oiks with cans of spray paint. Punk is so much more than that. It’s not a safety pin through the nose, or a crudely written swear word on a spiked leather jacket. It’s not a fashion statement; it’s an expression of ideology. It is a genre in which great intellectuals exist, and has evolved primarily from Proudhonian ideals of both individual and social anarchism. Both of these schools of thought are on proud display on the fifth studio album from Canadian sextet, Fucked Up.The cohesion of these seemingly diametric viewpoints is a stroke of genius. Every individual member shines through their freedom of expression, but simultaneously they all work towards a common goal: Creating a masterpiece.
Album opener, None of Your Business, opens with a delicate piano and string instrument piece. Accompanied by an ethereal operatic set of vocals, it washes over you and sets an apt mood for the journey – in the truest sense of the word – upon which you are about to embark with the Fucked Up boys. Just as you have settled into the comfort of the gentle mood, the album-proper kicks off. A thrashing, gritty, saxophone accompanied escape from the banality of an office job for Fucked Up’s recurring lead character, David. By the second refrain of the chorus, you’ll be furiously head banging and shouting along with Damian Abraham’s curiously infectious vocals. An oasis in amongst the chaotic back and forth of Mike Haliechuk and Ben Cook’s jagged guitars.
As disc one of the double album twist and turns through David’s journey, it becomes ever more clear that this is not any old hardcore punk album. Fucked Up appear to be as influenced by Pulp and The Cure as they are Bad Brains or Black Flag. This is first evident on Tell Me What You See. A more gentle, yet no less demanding song, featuring yet another ear-worm of a chorus. This time the chorus is delivered by bassist, Sandy Miranda, adding a fractious edge to the David’s psyche: being layered along side Abraham, there’s a push and pull that feels as if there are two voices warring inside your head. The dark and light struggle our protagonist is subject to.
By the second disc, you are wholly sucked into David and Fucked Up’s world. A bleak story of liberation, cascading optimism and pessimism upon the listener in equal measure. The inclusion of electronic elements slowly growing throughout the second half adds a throbbing sense of paranoia. This only further exaggerates the blissful catharsis of finale, Joy Stops Time. Not merely a beautifully romantic sentiment, it’s a song that leaves you as short of breath and contended as being in the arms of a loved one.
So, punk then. Not just a bunch of spotty freaks shouting about the government. A genre in which nothing is off limits. Individual and collective freedoms work together to produce a utilitarian result. And this album certainly is the greatest amount of good, and it’s the responsibility of the listener to get it to the greatest amount of people. Not a wasted second. Not a single ill-conceived idea. This is an instantaneous modern classic. If you like your music challenging and experimental, and albums that pay dividends for your time invested, you cannot let this pass you by. This is the most ambitious, most eclectic, best punk album since The Shape of Punk to Come. This is the greatest album of the 2010s.