Fucked Up are a band who are applauded – largely correctly – for their ambition, their willingness to subvert, and their inclination towards experimentation. But acting within (what are perceived to be) the narrow parameters of punk rock music, however, these accolades are distressingly easy to come by, and are often somehow patronising in tone. The ‘novelty’ of a punk band having even one iota of ambition sends some journalists into such a superficial frenzy as to overshadow Fucked Up’s more substantial merits, which are of course plentiful. These journalists are going to go irritatingly spare about David Comes To Life: an eighteen song gauntlet, in the form of a rock opera – a work of such potential dynamism so as to fall far outside of the usual brackets of punkrock before we’ve even heard a note.
But, no matter how ‘ambitious’ and ‘experimental’ Fucked Up are, they will always remain at heart a hardcore punk band. And no matter how much people, even the band themselves, would sometimes have it that ‘punk music’ and ‘interesting music’ are mutually exclusive entities, I simply don’t believe that it is so. (Although, it is a position I can sympathise with – I am also all too aware of the albatross of sneering prejudice which comes attached to the genre). But David Comes To Life happily puts paid to such idiocy, by proving how invigoratingly exhilarating straight up punk music can be. For all its breadth and scope, this new album hasn’t reinvented the Fucked Up wheel: Damien’s bark, the ferocious walls of sound, and thundering rhythms are all present and correct, all as punkrock as the day is long.
Stripping away all the gimmicky, superficial gauze surrounding the album, you’re left with something quite brilliant: the culmination of Fucked Up’s recent high-flying momentum, and undoubtedly their finest piece of work to date. It would take a bold reviewer to claim that this is Fucked Up’s pop record, but there’s undoubtedly a prevalent feel-good factor to this album; a lightness of touch which makes their prior work sound a little weighted and stodgy in comparison. Don’t get me wrong, the band have lost none of their ferocious edge – these tracks still brim with energised aggression – but there is a fresh aspect to their walls-of-guitar arrangements; the way that the skipping guitar lines interact on tracks like ‘Under My Nose’ inject a real sense of playfulness to proceedings previously unheard from the band. ‘Turn The Season’ is the closest Fucked Up have come to a shimmying dance number; ‘I Was There’ their closest approximation to a ballad – all performed under the broad umbrella of paint stripping punkrock.
From start to finish, David Comes To Life rushes past (insofar as an eighteen song marathon is able to ‘rush past’) on a tidal wave of momentous pace, inviting shout-alongs, air drumming, and repeated checks that the volume is indeed as high as that fucker can go. Moments like the stupendous climax of ‘Serve Me Right’ – as its ascending guitar licks push upward and upward on a surge of adrenaline – are the sort of musical triumphs which enrich and colour one’s summer, and they’re ten-a-penny on this album.
I hate to be reduced to ending a review on that catalogue of cliches about end of year lists and blah blah blah, but David Comes To Life does everything to deserve them. Restraining myself to my most modest possible endorsements, this album absolutely demands to be part of your mandatory summer listening, and deserves a prime place in your car’s glove compartment for maximum volume listening on blazing drives. It’s a ferocious and engaging beast, as inviting as it is violent, and it takes us one step closer to the day when we can openly embrace brilliant punk music, without having to hide behind mealy-mouthed qualifiers like ‘experimental’, ‘subversive’ or other such non-committal bullshit. Fucked Up have made an absolutely tremendous punk album, and there’s no shame in enjoying every fucking second of it.