Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fucked Up: Couple Tracks: Singles 2002-2009

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In a little under a decade, Fucked Up has recorded and released more music than many bands manage to in an entire career. Though the Canadian band isn't the only group churning out songs with such Pollard-like proficiency, it has largely maintained one key element sometimes lacking from other artists who spit out records at breakneck pace: quality control. It took the overwhelmingly positive critical reception to The Chemistry Of Common Life to introduce the band to a wider indie audience, but longtime fans already knew what that album confirmed: since 2002, Fucked Up has created some of indie's most challenging, confrontational and consistently solid records.

Couple Tracks: Singles 2002-2009 doesn't contain all of the band's essential singles from those years - given the sheer volume of its output, it really couldn't - but it's still a near-perfect compilation for both casual listeners who are only familiar with Fucked Up from Chemistry as well as those already well-versed in the band's extensive discography. Consisting of singles, demos, outtakes, cover songs and alternate versions, the release covers most of the band's best work of the last decade and, taken together with previous singles collection Epics In Minutes, offers a comprehensive overview of the band and is an early entry for one of the best reissues of 2010.

The Fucked Up of Couple Tracks is one whose hardcore leanings are obvious, especially on tracks like "No PasarĂ¡n," "Neat Parts" and "Ban Violins." The group takes a similar approach on nearly every song: Pink Eyes barks out his vocals like either an unhinged sociopath or the most dangerously sane person in the room, while the band, behind him, works over their instruments with a mixture of precision and violence. Still, the band offers enough variations in these songs to separate them from the shitpile of hardcore-influenced bands that so slavishly crib from Black Flag, Minor Threat and Fugazi, among others. These departures from typical hardcore are less pronounced than they are on Chemistry, but they are nevertheless evident: the atypically long running times, guitar instrumentals, underlying melodies and overdubs become more pronounced and tense against Pink Eyes' menacing snarls. Many of the songs included here are as strong as anything from Chemistry; moreover, there is an immediacy and directness to tracks like "Dangerous Fumes" and "Toronto FC" that is sometimes missing from some of Chemistry's more meandering and indulgent moments.

Although much of Fucked Up's sound and subject matter fit neatly within the hardcore template - and the group can be faulted for sometimes displaying that genre's dogmatic social/political/cultural tendencies - the band's style is unique enough to have saddled them with lofty, and most likely unrealistic, expectations. Whether by design or something as simple as great songs coupled with critical praise and a loyal fanbase, the group has taken a genre every bit as formulaic and doctrinaire as folk or bluegrass and made it relevant again. If the band's music has sometimes taken a backseat to its carefully honed image - the biographical misdirection and mythologizing, the bouts of painfully obvious and deliberate provocation, among other things - Couple Tracks: Singles 2002-2009 proves the songs are strong enough to stand on their own. Leave that extraneous stuff to less capable bands.

1 comment:

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