I don't usually like breaking the fourth wall and writing in the first person, but I'm going to give a small peek behind the looking glass. There's a super–secret, private group where submitted and suggested material is offered up to the various staff reviewers. It gets dibsed out and we get to the task of listening and writing. It's actually quite fun as all the staff are music fans and are enthusiastic about getting the opportunity to grab the latest releases by artists they are fans (and potential fans) of.
As a fan of Fucked Up, I was particularly excited when I saw the latest release by the Toronto–based band being made available. The Chemistry of Common Life was my gateway to the band, and that album and subsequent live shows I witnessed (both in intimately small venues) only solidified my passion for their work. Only it wasn't the "traditional" release of Glass Boys that was being offered, but the "slow version" recorded with an alternate drum track.
I wrote a message talking about how much I loved Fucked Up, but the thought of a "slowed down" version kind of scared me. It just didn't sound like a good idea, and I was bummed out at the prospect of having to trash a band that I'm a fan of, because their vision didn't fit into my own. "I want to take it, but I can't," was my initial response. I thought it sounded like a bad idea. It was then I was simply confronted with, "Do you want it or not–"
"Buy the ticket, take the ride," as Hunter S. Thompson famously said. I was In.
And I'm glad I took it. Because I was wrong.
Drummer Jonah Falco recorded alternate, "slower" drum parts for Fucked Up's latest release, Glass Boys. The reasoning is anybody's guess. Extra time– Extra creativity– Disagreements over final song versions– (A tweet by frontman Damian Abraham places the blame/responsibility on guitarists Mike Haliechuk and Jonah Falco). It doesn't matter. The slower, half–time version of Glass Boys, available on limited–edition vinyl as well as digitally, is a wonderful release that could just as easily stand on its own. In fact, one may wonder why it wasn't made the "official" version.
As opposed to the band's 2011 release, David Comes To Life, Glass Boys isn't a concept record. The only protagonist is the band itself (with Abraham as its mouthpiece), with lyrics that are more personally introspective. Fucked Up as a band find themselves to be more on the inside than out (critical acclaim and Canada's prestigious Polaris prize, awarded to the band in 2009, can do that). Abraham is not above critical self–reflection, however. "We ushered in all that corrupts/Now we're drowning in the glut," he bellows on "The Great Divide."
Calling this version "slow" is a bit of a misnomer, as the music isn't slowed down, nor are the arrangements any different. A slower and simpler drum track was used rather than the four (–!) tracks of drums used on the "official" version. It doesn't create a slower song, but it does show how dynamic the interplay is between the band's members. Giving more space creates a different kind of tension, and the songs retain their heaviness and bombast. I instantly thought of "Ocean Size" and "Mountain Song" from the classic Jane's Addiction album, Nothing's Shocking. The drums don't determine the song, it's the space between the beats.
Fucked Up is a band that lives up to their name, as they can be difficult to figure out. Following up a lengthy concept album with alternate versions of the same record adds to the band's reputation as hard to pigeonhole. The casual fan recently turned on to the band will be interested in hearing the different version at some point. The Fucked Up collector nerd and completionist will need to have it. And they should.