Fucked Up is on a continuing path to shock, destroy, and simply put their audiences in awe. Name the last hardcore band to put out a first full-length topping out at over 72 minutes. It's probably not an easy memory to recall.
Even in songs reaching well beyond 5 minutes, Hidden World likely contains some of Fucked Up's most accessible moments (notice I say “moments”). Somehow, Fucked Up spit the vocal fire of Black Flag but draw musically from the upbeat, charming allure of the Jam, all the while managing to offer a painfully happy vocal hook, and it simply makes for some of the most mindboggling songwriting in some time.
"Crusades" might open in the most grand of fashions, with a rounding choir and stomping, anthem-filling guitar riffs, but once the actual song gets underway, chances are you've heard few other hardcore bands sound so happy about being pissed off. Fuck, even "David Comes to Life" could nearly be the "single" here -- with a chorus somehow resembling the Dropkick Murphys and even more layered, pretty vocals at its finishing climax, it's not only Fucked Up at their most economical, but a prime example of the band at their most approachable.
Earlier punk influence comes heavy into play in tracks like "Carried Out to the Sea," which I'd swear was a Buzzcocks B-side if not for Pink Eyes' throaty roar and a lack of higher pitched "uh-ohhh"s in the background. "Two Snakes" stands out with effective, commanding percussion and a fiery, captivatingly repetitive shout of the song title, but serves as a piece where it eventually seems the band is writing a seven-minute song just to write a seven-minute song.
The threat in Hidden World really comes in its length and ambition and not necessarily in the violent aggression one would expect from Fucked Up (unless very careful attention is paid to select lyrical sections ["Baiting the Public:" "I want to smash your house / I want to scratch your car / I want to fuck your wife / I want to break your life"]). There's an array of unexpected instrumentation to be found on the record but it's often implemented rather subtly, and usually at the start or finish of a track. Sure, bites of left field violin tie up "Carried Out to the Sea," and the several seconds of whistling at the end of the title track is actually a nice reception, but often the band carry out their motives pounding their chords in rather extended passages, sometimes flirting with noise-rock layers to help fill the space and at least make it somewhat interesting -- yet this is precisely why that as Hidden World proceeds, it makes for a strenuous listen. Even through an unabashed musical optimism, Fucked Up succeed in their attempts to simply agitate the listener, and that's all fine and dandy if the listener somehow appreciates experiencing that human characteristic. Unfortunately, Fucked Up's lengthy compositions just don't seem to work wholly in the full-length format, and that's probably why they've put it off for so long.
Oh, and if all this doesn't sound weird enough, Alexisonfire frontman George Pettit offers some guest counterscreams in the last track, "Vivian Girls," and while his presence is entirely unexpected, it's surprisingly well placed. Still, certain punk elitists may end up utterly mindfucked. The song itself ends with a brief clip of the audio tape recorded during the Jonestown Massacre. It's not quite long enough to be as disturbing as intended, really.
It should be stressed that despite this, Hidden World is good. It offers a meet and greet of classic punk and hardcore like rarely seen before, directs a mesmerizing assortment of instrumentation not normally heard in the genre, and weaves strange tales making interpretation a difficult task -- the only problem being, there's just too goddamned much of it.
Baiting the Public