Fucked Up - David Comes to Life (Cover Artwork)

Fucked Up

Fucked Up: David Comes to LifeDavid Comes to Life (2011)
Matador Records

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:

Contributed by: JohnGentileJohnGentile
(others by this writer | submit your own)

Did Fucked Up dodge a bullet or are they just impervious? In releasing their third LP, and first rock opera, David Comes to Life, the band chose to take quite the leap of faith. The concept album/rock opera has set some of the greatest rock acts of all time into the annals of fame, including the Who.
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Did Fucked Up dodge a bullet or are they just impervious? In releasing their third LP, and first rock opera, David Comes to Life, the band chose to take quite the leap of faith. The concept album/rock opera has set some of the greatest rock acts of all time into the annals of fame, including the Who, Alice Cooper, the Kinks and David Bowie. But, it has also shuttled some of those same groups into a slow death of declining relevance. But, here, Fucked Up utilizes the songs on David more as set pieces than narratives, and create an album that is both deceptively simple and complex.

Although the album is about a young man that may or may not have killed his lady friend, you probably couldn't figure that out from reading the lyrics. Rather, as characters walk in and out through the tracks, openly declaring their thoughts much like ancient Greek theatre, the album comes off more as a series of character studies that, despite the deceiving detail, also has a vagueness that lets the listener put the pieces together as he or she will.

Immediately upon hitting play, the cohesiveness of the album's sound becomes apparent. Although the band has steadily distanced themselves from standard hardcore, even on their last LP, 2008's The Chemistry of Common Life, a certain angularity remained in the riffs, giving the songs a swinging and identifiable progression. But here, perhaps to echo the album's late '70s English setting, the music is much more ambiguous. Somewhat referencing the post-punk meets pop of late '70s England, the chords don't so much snap as they flow, constantly pulsating and changing, but rarely having an identifiable start or stop. At times, the music wraps together so thickly that entire songs seem to be only one note that grows and dwindles, undulating in color and shape.

But, fascinatingly, while Fucked Up had progressed light years in sound from their earliest releases, to some degree, they've returned to their earliest format in song structure. While later-day Fucked Up releases like ChemCom and 2010's Year of the Ox featured long, multi-part epics that became completely different songs by their end, the songs on David are, for the most part, short and simple. While the album itself is massive once all the songs are arranged together, the songs individually seem affixed to the classic pop formula. Many of the songs start out with a refrain that gradually grows in intensity until the end, repeating the same exhibition while subtly coloring in differences that are unconsciously apparent.

Frontman Damian Abraham is used both to his strongest and most disconcerting effect to date. While publications almost always point out that Abraham is a big guy, or that he's bald with a beard, or that he growls a lot, or that he cuts himself, few mention his gift as a lyricist. He echoes the early viciousness and snottiness of classic punk: "We need a Peter, we got a Paul, at least Judas had some balls." But, he's also able to write in an almost biblical format (that is also deft for its play on words) when the album's narrator steps into the play itself: "I couldn't watch quietly and I won't pretend to understand. / I don't feign piety, but why would a God ever want to be...?"

Abraham's voice is also at its most contrasting here. On ChemCom Fucked Up's sound had somewhat of a nasty bite to it. Here, the bands sound is almost smooth, à la the Smiths or the Cure. Because Abraham's voice is so gruff, it stands out more than ever against the flowing sounds, and brings to light the concept of the band in its earliest incarnation, when they wanted to be "the most dysfunctional band ever."

To be fair, as with many double-LP rock operas, the piece can seem a little long-winded. At 18 tracks, the album doesn't seem to be made for a single sitting, especially since that as tight as the songs are, they seem to blend together after a while, due to their warm tone and similar tempo. Then again, that's one point of concept albums. There's much more here than simple finger-snapping. The multiple layers are designed for repeat listens, and each quirk can be run over multiple times to discover what lies at the bottom.

In their earliest days, Fucked Up would deliberately disperse misinformation, namely about a "David Eliade" who was supposedly their mentor, while their songs were catchy by acting fairly straightforward. But, now that the band has become more transparent in their activities and goals, their music has become as amorphous as ever. In the end of the LP, the lead character may or may not resurrected himself, echoing Fucked Up's own puzzling actions. With this release, is Fucked Up killing itself off with style, or submitting itself to cataclysm to return in a greater form later on?


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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
FreewaterfallJr (July 25, 2013)

Such a fantastic and ambitious record, it is a complete marathon in terms of listening, but still worth your time.

mowlio (February 15, 2012)

Not an album so much as a test of endurance. This album is 70 minutes of boring, overproduced and pretentious nonsense.

whatchokesbegin (December 22, 2011)

I seriously don't understand why everyone loves this band. I have tried at least half a dozen times to get into them and I just can't. Abraham's voice is just impossible to listen to for more than a few minutes. Not because it's such a growl, but because every word he says sound the same. There is no variation or range at all in his style. I'm not being a dick, I legitimately don't understand and would like someone to explain it to me. And don't say the lyrics. I need to know how someone can listen to this for 78 minutes.

EchosMyron (December 12, 2011)

Best album that's eligible for PN's 2011 users' favorites list.

bobbie (December 8, 2011)

Just a little bit too long, overall great though.

austinatx (August 8, 2011)

Hadn't listened to Fucked Up since Hidden Worlds and was totally caught off guard by this album. Great tunes front to back and some of the best/most massive/real kick drum sounds I've ever heard on a punk record.

Rich27 (June 25, 2011)

Album of the year so far - contenders to come include Crazy Arm and Night Birds.

Nevermind (June 19, 2011)

just awesome album

pavexparadise (June 13, 2011)

So fucking epic!

Devianter (June 12, 2011)

Album of the year,mkay?

macbethmystery (June 11, 2011)

The female vocals rule so much, it's a shame they're pretty much only used in the first third of the album. Great album nonetheless.

ryancomestolife (June 10, 2011)

whoever reviewed this is a fucking loser. 4 stars? get a real job.

froggerwithmylife (June 10, 2011)

It rules, it rules so much. I think I'm gonna cry.

slowstupidhungry (June 8, 2011)

This is pretty good. I really hope the reviewer is wrong about this being some statement about the band itself. The whole "mythos" around them is pretty fucking boring to me, always has been... Some people with huge record collections playing punk music is not exactly the craziest concept I've ever heard of. And for as much as critics seem to read into this band, the end result kinda reflects that. But, as I said, it's still good.

damnitsderek (June 8, 2011)

Good to know I wasn't crazy for thinking that this was an album of the year contender before I was through listening to the record.

colin (June 7, 2011)

this is going to be hard pressed to beat as record of the year. just incredible front to back. 78 minutes and it doesn't skip a beat. superb.

kursk64 (June 7, 2011)

Really good - although I do agree it isn't exactly casual listening

douglas_is_rad (June 7, 2011)

ahaha @ "overblown bullshit" and "hit their stride with Chemistry". No way. ChemCom was a deviation from everything they do well with pseudo-experimentation and mediocre riffs. Hidden World will forever be their opus, but ChemCom aged poorly after my initial review of it. This record is better than ChemCom for a variety of reasons, namely for returning to their super long-form LP format. This band has evolved into something beautiful, and I'm excited to see where they take it from here. Even though some of the lyrics feel cheesy in the first half, they quickly return to form in the back-half. And even the cheesy lyrics have a very desirable sense of earnestness to them, given that the band spent the first 5 years of their existence shrouded in irony. I am by no means claiming that this album is perfect, as the middle section drags a little-bit (Turn the Season is not very good) but most of the songs work really well. Hats off to Fucked Up for making an album of this magnitude (well, 2.5 albums really, given David's Town and all the unreleased and B-Side songs on the singles from this album).

MuhammadMormon (June 7, 2011)

"One of the best of the year, even if it is kind of chore to sit through it all at once."

How can it be one of the year's best if it's a chore to listen to? The only logical answer is that everything this year blows (which is almost definitely true), and this is just decent.

drunkwithpower (June 7, 2011)

Over-blown bullshit, 78 minutes of recycled ideas and cast off riffs. This band hit their stride with Chemistry and for all the thought that went into this album there isn't anything interesting about it. They should have put more time into writing the songs and less time into coming up with a story and a theme for the artwork.

thepopeofchili-town (June 7, 2011)

Great review, great album. One of the best of the year, even if it is kind of chore to sit through it all at once.

milesqtoast (June 7, 2011)

the vocals get too monotonous for it to be that long.

bryne (June 7, 2011)

Good review, agree with the assessment.

Tudor (June 7, 2011)

I cannot stand the vocals in this band. This album is torture.

nate_derby (June 7, 2011)

Great review....cant wait to hear this record.

bud_boomer (June 7, 2011)

record of the year, mark it down.

maxethunders (June 7, 2011)

Going to get my copy today and from the four songs I've heard so far it's a serious record of the year contender.

ben_conoley (June 7, 2011)

Jag - Thatcher served from 1979-1990. It's set in Thatcher-era England, so it's the '80s, but could be '79 as well.

Problematiclogic (June 7, 2011)

This record is incredibly good and I enjoyed the review too. Well done!

dev (June 7, 2011)

Nicely, nicely done on the review. This is the best album I've heard in a very long time.

banal242 (June 7, 2011)

Not giving this album five stars is a joke.

misterspike (June 7, 2011)

Headphones record.

jag (June 7, 2011)

The album as a whole is absolutely stunning.

One question: I read in an interview that the story takes place in the 80s and the reviewer says 70s, so does it take place in the 70s or 80s?

R3vengeTherapy (June 7, 2011)

10,000 Marbles and Pink Eyes both wrote the lyrics, but 10,000 Marbles wrote most of them.

saladfingers (June 7, 2011)

isn't 10,000 Marbles the lyricist?

R3vengeTherapy (June 7, 2011)

Album of the Year. Fucked Up doesn't even think of themselves as a hardcore band anymore, they're just a band. A really fucking good one.

They also seem to be thinking this is their last LP, which would be fine with me because I don't think they'll write a better one. They are the best band making music right now.

ballsackky (June 7, 2011)

Love this record.

alpod4 (June 7, 2011)

sooooooo gooooooooood

lukabratzi (June 7, 2011)

This album is fucking spectacular. Saw them at Chaos and they were one of the coolest bands that I've ever seen live.

scientistrock (June 7, 2011)

Currently my favorite album since Zen Arcade #realtalk

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