Spree Music with J. DiDomizio: F@#*ed Up
I’m no stranger to concept albums, in fact there was a time in my musical geekery when I thought there could be a through line in any album, no matter how thin, if one simply listened closely and often enough. I’ve since accepted that this simply isn’t true, and that sometimes an album—even great ones—are just collections of songs recorded over a certain period of time and in a particular place. Concept albums deliberately take the idea of a cohesive narrative broken into songs to (sometimes) pretentious heights, which makes them a really tough sell for a marketing team. Punk has an interesting history with concept albums; they’re something that isn’t usually associated with the common perception of punk’s ethos. The Clash gave us Sandinista!, Hüsker Dü dropped Zen Arcade, and, skipping a bit forward and with a looser definition, Green Day released American Idiot. Loud, fast, and short are the adjectives that come to mind, but the main characteristic of punk is, and always will be, to break the rules.
F@#*ed Up, based in Toronto, released their 18 track 78-minute long concept album David Comes to Life earlier this year, and by their name alone, it is clear they are not strangers to breaking rules. The band has received accolades from critics since their first release on Matador, The Chemistry of Common Life, in 2008, and to the band’s surprise, the praise continued with their newest release. The story follows David, a fictional factory worker who lives in a fictional British town and falls in love with a fictional girl, loses her, and then begins an existential journey, trying to understand the transformative power that loss and love bring. There are themes relating to workers’ rights and politics thrown in for good measure. All of this is screamed out by lead singer Damian Abraham, with the accompaniment of female vocals and arena-rock size guitar riffs and hooks. The video for the first single, “Queen of Hearts,” is a perfect example of the kind of operatic storytelling F@#*d Up has achieved.
For some listeners the screaming may be off-putting, but it’s the musicianship and the undeniable catchiness of each track that hold your attention. The Hold Steady doesn’t rock this hard, but their riffs (and penchant for rock operas) share similar influences. Much like Refused did in 1998 with their punk classic (and concept album) The Shape of Punk to Come, F@#*ed Up brings accessibility without dilution or pandering to their sound. David Comes to Life is loud and brutal at times, without much of a break from start to finish, but it is an exciting and memorable ride.
Known for their wild—and at times, destructive—live performances, F@#*ed Up will be playing the Town Ballroom on October 2nd co-headlining with WAVVES. The Foo Fighters may play Buffalo a week before, but Fu@#*ed Up will be joining them on stage in Australia and New Zealand in November and December. To really whet your appetite here’s the video from their second single “The Other Shoe”.
Joseph DiDomizio is a writer, filmmaker, and sometimes a musician. He has been writing about music, movies, books and pop-culture for several years. You can follow him on Twitter if you’d like.