Village stalwart Izzy is delivering a fresh retrospective review every Friday! Make sure to check in weekly for a dose of nostalgia. - Ed.
Written by: Izzy
In spite of my adoration for many of punk’s subgenres, from metalcore to screamo to post-hardcore and more, I tend to struggle with enjoying the older and purer forms of punk. I could talk about the three aforementioned styles for hours and hours, but ask me about my favourite hardcore punk bands and my mind goes blank. Like, there’s uh…I like a couple Black Flag albums I guess? Crass and Spazz are okay too, and there’s a handful of Japanese hardcore bands like Gauze or Crow that I enjoy a lot, oh there’s Rudimentary Peni! Those guys are amazing. What about Midori, do they count? Eh they’re probably too artsy to be hardcore punk, much closer to jazz punk. I could maybe come up with one or two more, but you get the point.
Amongst that tiny list of bands, Fucked Up would probably seem like an odd choice, as most people know them for their later punk rock opera albums, but rather early into their career yet quite late in the grand scheme of hardcore punk sits an oddity dear to my heart: their 2008 sophomore LP The Chemistry of Common Life.
It’s an album the rests at a strange intersection between post-hardcore, art punk, indie rock, shoegaze, and psychedelia. It is one of the most eclectic and fascinating mixes of genres all built on the foundation of that oldschool hardcore punk sound, and it’s easily one of my favourite hardcore punk records of all time, if you don’t mind me stretching the definition a bit.
Is punk starting to not sound like a word anymore? Well, get used to it, cuz you’re gonna be hearing it a lot more.
There’s a ton of distinctly catchy melodies and choruses here, with fast and energetic more straightforward punk tracks juxtaposed by very psychedelic and dreamlike songs, more reminiscent of something I could imagine a rock band like The Doors or Manic Street Preachers making, but with the gruff biting growl of vocalist Damian Abraham driving through to remind you this is still a punk band.Where this album truly shines, however, is when it simply embraces all its influences at once, resulting in something akin to a synthesis of most fun punk songs and memorable rock songs/ Tracks like “Son The Father,” “Black Albino Bones,” “Royal Swan,” and the album’s eponymous closing track feature the tight and powerful riffs of hardcore punk, the hypnotic reverb drenched guitars of psychedelic rock, the commanding back and forth vocal deliveries of rock opera, and the immensely catchy songwriting of the best indie rock, all rolled together into a handful of earworm tracks.
And this mind-bending genre blend makes perfect sense on a conceptual level too, given the album’s name was lifted from a book that, among other things, details the hallucinatory and psychoactive effects of various fungi and plants. But even when read at face value, the title of The Chemistry of Common Life explains exactly why it stands out amongst Fucked Up’s discography, even compared to the bands far more adventurous and conceptual later albums. It doesn’t feel like it’s trying to be anything bigger than it is, it is an album for common life, it doesn’t demand your full attention but it’s still playful and packed to the brim with subtleties that unravel on subsequent listens, bringing you the simple joy of music while requesting little in return but a brief bit of your time.
Now, I would be lying if I told you this was their best album, because frankly I can’t pick between it and the band’s other most iconic album, 2011's David Comes to Life. They’re simply such brilliant polymerizations of the best that both punk and rock has to offer, bordering on what I might even dare calling perfect, but I do come back to The Chemistry of Common Life more because it lacks the baggage that David Comes to Life’s four act fourth-wall breaking story and nearly 80 minute run time carries, so honestly just go listen to both! As in like, right now, the review is over! I’ve said everything I wanted to say, so go listen to them instead of wasting precious seconds reading through this poor attempt at putting the cap on a review I couldn’t think of a good way to end!
Fucked Up - The Chemistry of Common Life was released in 2008 via Matador Records and Welfare Records
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We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!