Here is a list of just some of the things that Fucked Up has achieved in its mere 13 year existence: released a double concept album, won the Polaris Music prize, played on stage with Jello Biafra and Keith Morris, recorded a single reportedly sampling the Taliban, got banned from MTV Canada, started a series of songs based on the Chinese zodiac, debuted on the Billboard 100, beefed with Billy Talent, sued Camel Cigarettes, released over 70 records, won "Spin"'s album of the year, collaborated with Jim Jarmusch, changed the very perception of the word "Fuck."
That ain't too shabby for any band. For a punk band, it is unprecedented. So, you'd think that on Glass Boys, an album that revolves around the theme of the band reflecting on their past, the band would basically re–write "We Are the Champions." He's what frontman Damian Abraham spits out on "The Art of Patrons" instead, "one by one we will find a way to let each and everyone down."
That is to say, the band is contemplating mass acceptance, but questioning whether their younger versions would be pleased with the decisions. It's telling that the band can't let themselves be happy for their success. Instead of a victory lap, the band repeatedly takes themselves to task for going where no one has gone before.
Even the record itself reflects that. The previous album, David Comes to Life, was a monolithic album, pumped full of mid–tempo, ethereal songs. Glass Boys, in many ways, reaches back to their band's earlier days. There's nothing here that thrashes like "Police," but here, Mike Haliechuck's guitar lines are the most defined they've been in ages, shifting from a metallic, almost '70s stadium rock rumble on "Warm Change," to a storming charge on "DET," to the huge sheets of sound found on the title track. Drummer Jonah Falco (who is sort of a main fixture of the album, having been given the focus on the alternate version of the album) stomps with a loose violence, cracking the band along, whereas formerly, they might have been more content to bathe in their own oblique sonic mass.
Throughout the piece, the band takes the elements that they've crafted –– the hard riffs from the early days, the swinging rock rhythm from Chemistry of Common Life, the sheer weight of David Comes to Life, and boils them down to their essences, and fashions Fucked Up in its most modern incarnation. This isn't a radical leap forward, as with some of the other releases. This is quite clearly a self–definition.
In a way, that's the most challenging road the band could have taken. Most of their other releases are cloaked with what could be perceived as bells and whistles. "This one is a punk album about the sun and it opens with a flute!" "This one is a meta–concept album about blowing up a factory!" "This one is one that you can only get on eBay for $125!" But here, although there is a thematic art of growing older, there is no one way to pigeonhole Glass Boys. The band puts themselves front and center –– at times they cringe, like when Abraham explicitly acknowledges that he feels that he's sold out to a certain degree. At others, they just have fun, like "Warm Change"'s badass Sabbath–y solo.
The fact is, without all the trappings, Fucked Up is a punk rock band that doesn't follow the "code" of punk rock too closely (which is pretty punk), that writes reflective, intelligent lyrics, that borrows sonic elements from shoegaze and college–rock, that is driven by: one hell of a drummer, a skinny, weird guy that has great talent for experimentation and foresight and a big, hairy guy (who's not so big anymore) that writes really good lyrics that people often overlook. That's it.
It's unclear why the band's former selves are giving their current selves such a hard time through their own lyrics. Comparing the room intentionally left for interpretation on Glass Boys with the murky, nearly indecipherable cover of 2002's No Pasaran, it looks like the band is on the exact same mission they were when they started, even if they don't know it, and even if they don't realize that they're on a mission at all.