So then: Fucked Up have a fat schizophrenic for a frontman, their gigs are whirlwinds of violence and… well, they have a rather juvenile name. They’re an idiotic, nihilistic punk band who simply want to cause as much destruction as possible and don’t give a shit about collateral damage. Yeah? Actually, no. So what are they? After a cavalcade of seven-inches and 2006’s ‘Hidden World’, the vast ‘Year Of The Pig’ propelled this insular, screwed-up hardcore band into the public eye.While ‘The Chemistry Of Common Life’ lurches like a golem, it’s far, far richer than their reputation suggests. ‘ChemCom’ (if you will) has a title and overarching theme intimating that behind everyday life lie myriad miracles so familiar they appear mundane – the breathtakingly clever masquerading as the stupid. And on this evidence, Fucked Up themselves would appear to be just as intelligent; hell, as good as they are, how many Rancid albums open and close to the strains of a flute?
‘Crooked Head’ and ‘No Epiphany’ are proudly bulky and strangely anthemic at the same time, the piston guitars and Damian Abraham’s raspy shout most reminiscent of ‘Hidden World’’s sludge-punk attack, while ‘Son The Father’ is a back-alley fight set to a Minutemen soundtrack, a fevered frenzy of fists and elbows. The title track, on the other hand, is a joyous explosion of shrieking energy that sounds like a riot interrupting a Replacements practice. So far, so obvious. But then there’s ‘Looking For God’: a playful meandering that darkly suggests the sky really is empty; ‘Twice Born’ goads us into putting our “hands up if you think you’re the only one” before a choir sneers, “we all have our hands up”… these guys can’t just be a bunch of dumb punks.
And just as ‘Black Albino Bones’ warms like a sunrise thanks to its unexpectedly generous lashings of melody and a chorus you can sing rather than scream along with, ‘Royal Swan’ proves itself something of a noble beast. As Katie Stelmanis-Cali gamely belts out a hymn to “the weight of the world… measured in cells”, Abraham’s bellow clatters around it unsettlingly. Is this heavy or light? Punk or pop? Such questions are immaterial; on paper Fucked Up are a mess of contradictions but their music is downright fascinating. And it sounds incredible, too.
Yes, it’s possible to punch walls and get angry to ‘…Chemistry…’ but just like Black Flag or even NOFX (who beat them to writing an 18-minute punk song by, er, eight years) there’s a musical and lyrical depth that warrants attention above and beyond the circus-act curiosity that inevitably accompanies them. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have at least noticed Fucked Up by now; thankfully ‘The Chemistry Of Common Life’ finally proves that rather than being a messy gimmick, Fucked Up are a startlingly talented punk rock band.