VIDEO: Fucked Up, "Son the Father" live at Great Scott
The media-propagated notion that the Canadian sextet Fucked Up are "saving hardcore" seems silly — I'm not even convinced hardcore needs saving. (Who's put it in peril?) The equally widespread conjecture that Fucked Up have made hardcore "safe" for indie kids is downright asinine. Although the band's rendition of hardcore punk is more diverse and ambitious than the standard, it's also spiritually, politically, and sometimes physically more confrontational in a manner so reflexive that they are, in fact, very dangerous to everyone's sonic complacency, regardless of what T-shirt you're wearing.
Fucked Up themselves have denied that they're saving hardcore. They have claimed to be making it "more palatable" to indie kids, but they were mostly joking.
"We said that tongue-in-cheek, just 'cause of the attention we started getting from indie scenes," says guitarist Gulag, a/k/a Concentration Camp, a/k/a Josh Zucker, over the phone from his home in Toronto. "We started working with more indie artists, just because we wanted to try different things. The punk scene is really inward-looking, so you get a lot of flak when you start working a bit outside of it. Our response to that is to look at indie people at our shows and pretend we're making it more palatable to them. Now we revel in having a foot in as many scenes as possible."
Gulag and lead guitarist 10,000 Marbles, a/k/a Mike Haliechuk, planted the germ that blossomed into Fucked Up in 2001 when they got bored with self-publishing a punk/lit 'zine and redirected their moxie into a band. Gulag was designated lead singer, but during a summer of hopping trains he was replaced by Pink Eyes, a/k/a Damien Abraham, and reassigned to guitar.
For a band who've cultivated a reputation for bat-shit insane live performances, Fucked Up have been scrupulous with their studio endeavors. Their first full-length, Hidden World, didn't appear until 2006, though they'd released at least 25 singles by then and have had many more since. Gulag credits this to an appreciation for the æsthetic and practicality of seven-inches. It also took a while to amass the resources needed for a record on the scale of their beyond-awesome second LP, The Chemistry of Common Life, which sports a whopping 70 instrumental tracks (many of them layered guitars). Gulag says they'll shoot for 200 on their next full-length. Chemistry is oblique enough to confuse and upset purists, but there's an unswerving, corrosive upheaval that's undeniably hardcore. I challenge anyone to listen to "Twice Born" without feeling a compulsion to floor-punch.
The mystical concepts batted about in the band's lyrics have the same energy and anarchy as the music. Some are pure abstractions, some explore Gnosticism, some are morbidly fascinated with Christianity. Gulag: "The spiritual, political, and historical influences are this pastiche of ideas that we'll get fascinated with, so we use them as inspiration." Of course, in true hardcore spirit, some songs suggest that there's actually nothing that can save us — not even Fucked Up (even if they did save hardcore). "We play with those spiritual currents as a way of writing about wanting to believe in something bigger than the reality we're experiencing, living pretty material lives."
FUCKED UP + CLOUDS + VIVA VIVA | Middle East upstairs, 472 Mass Ave, Cambridge | January 19 at 9 pm | $12 | 617.864.EAST or www.mideastclub.com