Fucked Up plays hardcore punk as if they have no clue what decade it is. On the Canadian band’s second LP, The Chemistry of Common Life, they successfully blend all of their visceral, hard-nosed elements with a more formless, shoegaze aesthetic. Lead vocalist Pink Eyes plays no small part in perpetuating the analogous relationship between Fucked Up’s name and their increasingly infamous reputation. However, the band is not all attitude and gimmickry. Chemistry and its balance between fury and grace is in no way insincere, overly calculated or ironic; it finds the band members feeding off of each other in a wholly organic and natural way. As evidenced from the flute solo that starts the album, all the way to the similarly lilting, barely-there outro of the final track, Fucked Up has managed to strike a meditative chord. Fortunately, this slightly more refined method of madness doesn’t so much replace the core sound that has given the band its unique identity, as much as it adds another level to it. Chemistry is vicious and deranged, but it is also rich and lush. Take, for example, the wall of screeching guitars and steady flow of 4/4 drumming on “Twice Born” leading into the calm and repetitive atmosphere of the central riff on the instrumental “Looking for God.” And consider the odd relationship between the tribal percussion and the monotonous guitar strumming before the explosive aggression that takes over “Magic Word.” There is a palpable sense of creativity and technique to be found beneath the obligatory punk-rock apathy. Fucked Up has created something special, and they’ve done so with very little pretense. Chemistry is a natural and seamless masterpiece that might never have happened but for the band’s own need to thumb its nose at expectations. What a bunch of dicks.
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