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Fucked Up: Glass Boys

Growing up within a scene that assigns as much importance to the passion and intensity of youth as the punk rock community does can be a painful process. In a recent Pitchfork interview, Fucked Up founders Damian Abraham and Mike Haliechuk confessed to feeling the pressure of writing and performing for fans whose expectations of their favourite groups tend not to extend far beyond a couple of solid studio records and a few years’ worth of incendiary live shows: a good hardcore outfit, they conceded, should hope to enjoy a decade at most in the spotlight before stepping aside to make way for the next wave of mouthy young guns – a predicted lifespan that if taken too seriously could easily turn into a self-imposed death sentence. How, then, does a band already three years or so past its expiration date go about proving that they’re not just churning out more music to pay the bills, and that they’re still relevant, especially when they’ve become the kind of globally successful career musicians the punk scene loves to hate? In the case of Glass Boys, FU’s fourth album proper and the follow-up to 2011’s monstrous hardcore rock opera David Comes To Life, the answer appears to come in two parts: they do so, firstly, by giving the people what they want, that being, of course, more of their signature triple guitar (brick) wall of sound and Abraham’s gargling-ground-glass growl; and secondly, by tackling the elephant in the room head on, with brutally honest lyrics that allude to the ethical dilemmas and life-changing situations that come with being cult heroes one minute and award-winning critical darlings and media personalities the next. As one might imagine, there’s some serious self-scrutiny going on: “I’m the reflection of a dream I had when I was fifteen“, Abraham barks on opener “Echo Boomer”, and whilst that’s probably not strictly true – it’s hard to believe as a teenager he ever envisioned himself touring the world with a band, let alone hosting Canadian TV’s premier alt-rock showcase, or starring with his wife in their own reality series – it sets the scene for the conflicted soul-bearing to come. When Abraham sings “We all get replaced, retconned and upstaged/ Life turns a page/ When we turn away the kids just aren’t the same” on “Sun Glass“, it doesn’t seem to be with any animosity towards the kids coming up from behind to steal his crown, but it isn’t exactly a sporting post-defeat handshake either; similarly, whilst a line like “We traded our moral high ground so they would sing along/ But is it so bad? Is it as dark as it seems?/ To trade a little purity to prolong the dream?” (“The Art Of Patrons”) feels like an admission of guilt, it’s pointedly not an apology: rather, it’s as if Abraham – a father of two – is taking the opportunity to justify to his audience – and himself – the more commercial decisions he has had to make in order to feed his family. Indeed, the idea of compromise seems to be central to Glass Boys, and not just in its lyrics: apparently Abraham’s original vision for the album – a 90 minute double featuring a disc of his own songs and another of Haliechuk’s – was rejected by the rest of the band, but if there’s any bitterness on the singer’s part it certainly isn’t reflected in the enthusiasm he shows for the ten tracks that make up FU’s most concise collection yet. The record’s 40 minute runtime actually works in its favour, cramming all the elements that make the group so special – the classic rock chops, the thunderous drums that belie the complexity of the proggy time signatures, the terrace chant choruses – into an easily digestible helping that is bite-size in comparison to the epic – and, let’s face it, exhausting – David. In resisting some of their more self-indulgent impulses, the group have made a record that follows punk’s original blitzkrieg blueprint more closely than any of their previous long-players, one that FU die-hards and punk purists alike will surely agree is one of 2014’s most vital releases. Twenty years after Kurt used Neil Young’s words to sign off for the last time, more people than ever subscribe to the theory that it’s better to burn out than to fade away; thankfully it seems Fucked Up aren’t ready to do either just yet.

Glass Boys is out June 3 via Matador; check out “Paper The House” and “Led By Hand” (featuring J. Mascis) below, and stream the whole album via Pitchfork Advance.
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About foamhands

My name is Michael Dix; I'm a decade or so past being down with the kids, but to me new music never gets old. Apparently I like music that sounds like faulty kitchen appliances and ritual slaughter; really I just like what I like, whether that happens to be indie, pop, punk, hip hop, metal, electronica, Afrobeat or jazz. Follow me on Twitter @FoamHandsBlog to receive notifications of new posts and the occasional random brain-fart, and please share links wherever you can. Enjoy!

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