David Comes to Life
Fucked Up don’t make it easy for themselves. The Toronto provocateurs started out by releasing many, many, many hard-to-find singles. When the sextet finally debuted a proper LP, it was a genre-defying blast of energy that cross-pollinated punk, hardcore, psychedelia, and experimental noise. Two years, and more singles later, the group garnered critical acclaim with their lush masterpiece, The Chemistry of Common Life. The album won the 2009 Polaris Music Prize (Canada’s answer to the UK’s Mercury Prize) and $20,000. Fucked Up used that money to fund a single for charity. In short, the band set expectations high for their next full length. Would they disappoint like so many artists who release masterpieces? Or do the damn-near-impossible and create something equally as good? Fucked Up did neither. They crafted something better.
David Comes to Life is a nearly 80-minute rock opera in four Acts. Yep, you read that right. Five songs comprise Acts 1 and 2 each, and Acts 3 and 4 each contain four songs. The namesake of the rock opera is a character the band has introduced in a few previous singles. In true Fucked Up fashion, the plot is convoluted and confounding. Here’s the Cliff Notes version: David is a young man who works a dead-end, boring job in a light bulb factory. He meets an anarchist named Veronica. David and Veronica fall in love instantly. They conspire to bomb the factory. Things go awry. Veronica dies in that bombing. David blames himself and falls into despair. Two additional characters reveal themselves in Acts 3 and 4. Octavio blames David for Veronica’s death and, addressing us, accuses him of lying. David’s ex-girlfriend Vivian also casts doubt on David’s character. Eventually, Octavio and Vivian admit that David is not to blame for Veronica’s death. In fact, Vivian confesses she was present at the bombing but doesn’t implicate herself in Veronica’s death. After much suffering, David finally comes to terms with his love’s tragic demise and is “reborn”. Guitarist (and co-lyricist for David) 10,000 Marbles (Mike Haliechuk) calls the plot “a simple love story”.
Admittedly, the monotonous growl of frontman Pink Eyes (Damian Abraham) doesn’t make deciphering the lyrics easy. No matter. The anthemic, melodic music of all 18 tracks will carry you through. David is the cleanest release yet from Fucked Up. There’s no indiscriminate riffage or bashing. That’s no easy task considering there are three guitarists. Props go to engineer Shane Stoneback for separating all the instruments without diluting the intensity. A faint woodwind bookends David. Fucked Up employed the same tactic on The Chemistry of Common Life. Other cohesive measures scatter about. The gradated chord progression in the debut instrumental “Let Her Rest” finishes the standout next track “Queen of Hearts”. Other songs effortlessly slide into each other, like the acoustic-tinged “Truth I Know” and the driving “Life in Paper”. The multilayered David offers something new with each listen. Pink Eyes claims that David is “the end game for this stage of Fucked Up”. That sentiment makes perfect sense — unlike the rock opera’s plot. It would seem impossible for Fucked Up to one-up their magnum opus. But ya never know. They are Fucked Up.
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