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23 June 2015

Fucked Up - 'Hidden World' (Deranged)

When I heard Fucked Up it was a good five or six years after I had been semi-immersed into the punk and hardcore scene, and I was starting to feel a new wave of appreciation for these sounds. But the second time around, I didn't shy away from melody, I didn't care about the culture around this music - a new take on a familiar feeling was all I wanted, and thus I took interest in records like Jay Reatard's Blood Visions, and also this. Hidden World is arguably an updating of hardcore with contemporary themes circa 2006, shaking off the musical conservatism that saturated the HeartattaCk world and embracing any possibilities that were out there. These Canadians could certainly play with a fury, but they employed just enough pop sensibility to make them palatable to the Matador label, where they ended up after this - and soon started making weird pseudonymous fake compilations and concept albums. There's ideas bursting from both LPs of this set, and when they bring in, for example, a violin solo (at the end of 'Carried Out To Sea'), it feels like an organically integrated part of the composition and not just a gimmick like so many other "hardcore" bands use. The singer's name is Pink Eyes which is a nice take on all these bands from the time (Wolf Eyes, Frog Eyes, Black Eyes, Aids Wolf, Pink Frog, etc.) though maybe he just had conjunctivitis. It's a double album but doesn't feel long, presented well on nice thick vinyl with good mastering, as has become the fashion. I sort of remember the one after this, which I think got compared to Radiohead in the media, but I didn't hang with it for more than one listen, though I should re-visit it now. Maybe I'm most stimulated by records like this, where the really ambitious stuff is still following a template of a formula, a familiar sound; these subtle reinventions from something rooted are often the most inspiring (This Heat Deceit, anyone?). Fucked Up weren't the first hardcore band to have occult-leaning lyrics that deconstruct religion and myth, though maybe the way they do this without compromising their energy is what's special. Moss Icon's brainy, acid-drenched ramblings are maybe an influence, but there's a more coherent focus here, even if the lyrics are not necessarily more lucid. They also aren't the first band to have a mastery of rock songwriting, but they definitely do; the heard-it-before surface of 'David Comes to Life' or 'Two Snakes' belie the complexity underneath. When the bass and drums stop in the title track and a wall of strummed chugga-guitar builds up, and the band eventually comes crashing back in, it's tension-and-release straight from the Mission of Burma schoolbook - you know it's coming, but you're happy for the payoff (and then it ends with a melodic pattern of whistling). It all warps up with the 9-minute 'Vivian Girls', which is sadly not a Snakefinger cover, but an epic of its own, with march-like instrumental climax and a thick blanketing sound that's hard to escape from. This is such a great record, and thanks to this alphabetical project for reminding me it's here.

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