Whether they're having the likes of J. Mascis, Moby or Les Savy Fav's Tim Harrington guest at their recent twelve hour gig in New York, or appearing on the (admittedly hidden-in-a-bag-of-free-gifts) cover of NME, Fucked Up certainly seem to be the hardcore band du jour.
Indeed, Harrington and singer leader Pink Eyes share more than just mutual admiration; both squeeze into XL clothing, sport bald head & beard and are prone to end up stripped down to their underwear and bleeding at their famously raucous live shows. But Fucked Up are definitively their own beast, having beguiled fans with 18 minute singles, lack of MySpace and bizarre monikers since their inception in 2002.
The Chemistry of Common Life is going to do nothing to taint this reputation - it's inventive, incessant, demanding and immersive. It’s also seductive; even those who dismiss hardcore as nothing more than a bunch of sweaty guys listening to bad metal and bellowing like mating rhinos may find themselves drawn in by it's velvety charms.
Opener 'Son the Father' almost sets a trap for the unwary, starting with a gentle Gaelic flute before quickly demolishing it with a wall of frenetic thrash, distinguished by a brattily delivered " hard enough being born in the first place, who would ever want to be born again" The diversity of their influences is what impresses, as almost every song here is enhanced by some unexpected feature, be it guest Katie Stelmanis-Cali's operatic vocals on 'Royal Swan' (against which Pink Eye’s gruff delivery sounds like a rhythm track), or 'Magic Word'’s percussive organ and farsifa riff, which wouldn't sound out of place transposed onto a world music record.
Despite this wealth of charming curve-balls, the beating heart of almost every track is pulse-quickening riffage and vein-poppingly delivered vocals. Pink Eyes' themes range from religion and mysticism to literate navel-gazing, but in this still finds room for the likes of "Hands up if you think you're the only one who's been denied", which no doubt draws the expected crowd reaction live.
Truth be told the record is hard to quantify - it's so dense and layered that attempting to describe why it works just makes it seem contrived, while it's success should measured by the fact that it sounds anything but. There may be more guitar tracks here than on Be Here Now, but unlike that unruly mess each song is so carefully constructed, with every element meshing seamlessly with the rest, that the band must have felt that with every session they were laying down a magnum opus.
To cut a long story short, Fucked Up are probably going to be making a lot of new friends this year. Even if their guitarist is called Gulag.
7John Winters's Score