Fucked Up - Year of the Hare [12-inch] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Fucked Up

Year of the Hare [12-inch] (2015)

Deathwish, Inc.

Fucked Up’s last album, Glass Boys, was a sort of codification of the band. Following a string of conceptual releases, including an album about the sun (sorta) and a meta-album about the band themselves, the band’s own Damian Abraham openly contemplated the band’s next moves in interviews: “When David Comes To Life was done, we weren’t sure we were going to make another record because it felt weird to try and make a record after that.” With that in mind, the band released Glass Boys, a compact record that commented on the fact that they had progressed, that they had done the massive epic album thing, and what was left to do?

So then, the fear with such a statement is, what does the band do after that? The answer comes in Year of the Hare, which was recorded along side Glass Boys. Fucked Up are usually at their freakiest on their non-album 12-inchers and that means they’re usually at their best on these slabs, too. Hare is no exception. With no pretense as to “how they should act as a former hardcore band now facing (moderate) success,” the band is free to do pretty much whatever they want, and get as far out as they want. One thinks of Bowie, who in the late '70s, had conquered glam. What was his next step? The answer: anything that he felt like. That same freedom from any constraint is what drives Hare and shows that while Fucked Up have completed one cycle of their existence, the next cycle has just as many, if not more, cool ideas in stock.

In fact, Hare openly mocks the concept of cycles or flow. Instead of the growing tide of Year of the Pig or the ascending Year of the Dragon. on Hare the band chops the song up in seemingly random spots. The beginning is a fractured, spastic collection of notes. The song then grows into one of Fucked Up’s trademarked blossoming growths, with the guitars and vocalist Damian Abraham’s voice growing in color and strength. But then, it suddenly fades away to a sparse, cold ticking until the album stops. After that, it gets even more fractured, with the song starting and stopping in random places. It’s almost as if they had a completed song, chopped it up and laid it back down in a patchwork.

Now, of course it’s trite to say a rock song takes cues from jazz, but I did sense a similar toying with expectation here. As much of hard jazz relies on contrast, timing and musical interaction, here the band plays with the concepts of tension, expectation and flow. When you settle into the song’s dreaming expanse, there’s a hard cut to something else entirely. When you expect it to be a series of rapid, jagged snaps, it uncoils just enough so that it seems like the song might actually develop into something “normal.” It doesn’t, of course, but it fools you into thinking that it will.

According to co-writer Jonah Falco, the song takes slight cues from the hare in Alice in Wonderland and details a person losing their mind, hence the non-linear chaos within the release. It’s a clever idea that in weaker hands could have fallen short. But here, the band is delicate and tricky in their metamorphosis so that you either are shocked and excited by the rapid change, or the song melts and degrades at such a slow place that you don’t realize the insanity of the whole thing before it is in shambles. That is to say, the band seems to have mastered two tricks, of which many bands struggle with only one. As early cuts like “Police” and later cuts like “Dragon” demonstrated, the band knows how to harness direst, fist-pumping energy. But, they can also be sly masters of subtlety, such as they are here. Things change and you only notice the shocking difference once you really stop and study the massive chasm behind you -- how fitting for this band.

For the Zodiac series records, the b-side seems as important as the a-side, despite that the flip sides rarely are mentioned in the upcoming months to record release. Sometimes the band puts an equally trippy, conceptual track on the flip, such as the mind melt “Onno,” and sometimes they just kicked out an old school punk banger, like “Disorder.” Hare’s companion, “California Cold” goes for the more epic route. Clocking in at a solid eight minutes, the song shows the band in their more “standard” structure -- layered, almost ethereal guitar propelled by Falco’s Bonham-esque drums while Abraham contrasts his bark to the smoother melody. But even here, the band is growing. For one thing, guitarist Mike Haliechuk fills the entirely release with a spacey '70s rock guitar solo that could fit at home on a Hawkwind record (a higher compliment would be hard to find.) Meanwhile,a sot of Kraftwerkian synth drops in the middle to give the song a feel that is equal parts Krautrock and electric. As woodwinds float by, the song really does have a whole druggy, prog feel to it. But like the prog masters, and unlike the prog followers, the band gives themselves just enough leash to get weird and trippy, but not so much that it becomes a slog. This song is free flowing, but interesting the whole time. Also, I think it might be about drugs if that is your thing.

I kid, I kid. “California Cold,” which had its lyrics written by Damian Abraham, shows Abraham's too oft unmentioned skill as a lyricist. Few writers have the ability to write from an unusual perspective such as is the wont of Abraham. He has the ability to anthropomorphize the static and he puts it to full use here, giving a greater understanding of his subject while, acting much as a certain drugs do, give one a knew lens from which to view the world.

I’ll admit it. I was scared for the band after Glass Boys. The record was a fine album for sure, but it seemed to be the summarization statement of their work to date. Was there any work left to do? Hare’s both sides show that in fact, the door of Glass Boys was just what they needed. With their past now packed away, they can essentially do whatever they want and their inherent Fucked Up-ness will still shine through. As exciting as it was on the eve of Chemistry of Common Life, it’s even more exciting now.