CD Roundup — Fucked Up and Cults

Hardcore heroes release their best effort to date while sugar-coated newcomers underwhelm.

Andrew Penkalski

 

âÄúDavid Comes to LifeâÄù

Artist: Fucked Up

Label: Matador Records

Across two critically heralded full-length albums and 50-plus singles since their 2002 beginning, Fucked Up is likely the most notable hardcore act around âÄî a success that can be attributed to their creedless and all-inclusive approach to a genre long dominated by brutish, straight-edge solidarity.

From the girth of frontman Damian âÄúPink EyeâÄù Abraham to the groupâÄôs willingness to delve into baroque instrumentals, Fucked Up barely subscribes to the abrasive genre it has resuscitated. Their latest release, the ambitious 80-minute rock opera, âÄúDavid Comes to Life,âÄù shows a five-piece that is hardly short on ideas.

The recordâÄôs lyrical depth outshines the simplicity of AbrahamâÄôs narrative. In an unnamed British town, the titular David falls in love with the beautiful Veronica, only to witness her death and struggle with her loss. Abraham is a songwriter that recognizes the role of the expansive concept. He uses this vague structure not as a means of deep character focus, but as an avenue to make statements of greater intensity than oneâÄôs own vantage point would allow.

On âÄúLife in Paper,âÄù Abraham growls, âÄúWho can I trust? / All I see is an empty sky / Who can I trust? / What goodâÄôs a God who canâÄôt hear my cries?âÄù âÄî a grandiose line that succeeds partially on its fictional orator but largely on the riff-savvy band working behind Abraham.

Even across 18 tracks, each bass progression is unique. The dynamic tempo built around rolling snares and chugging chords turn even AbrahamâÄôs most gurgled snarls into powerful hooks. Fucked Up plays to a peculiar pop center of an abrasive punk genre. And thatâÄôs why theyâÄôve crawled out beneath the weight of their stylistic rug since 2009âÄôs âÄúThe Chemistry of Common Life.âÄù Their latest and greatest effort shows a band that barely seems conscious of their punk vantage point. If thatâÄôs the case, hopefully Fucked Up never tries to make a punk record.

3 ½ / 4 starts

âÄúCultsâÄù

Artist: Cults

Label: Columbia Records

Watching a young band like Cults make their major-label debut is kind of like watching a good friend leave for a great college after senior year of high school. ItâÄôs going to open a lot of doors for them, but thereâÄôs a damn good chance that your friend is going to be different the next time he comes to town.

After a small collection of their lo-fi jukebox romance songs surfaced on the buzz blogs last March, this New York City duo has been the talk of the hipster town for the early half of last year. With their debut record released a year later on Columbia Records, singer Madeline Follin and guitarist Brian Oblivion have a big platform to work from. ItâÄôs just a shame they donâÄôt have anything grand to send in anyoneâÄôs direction.

The original charm of their under-produced pop of indiscernible origin has faded with the full-lengthâÄôs newfound sterility. Follin, with her delicate Connie Francis verses, no longer has her ephemeral allure. The time-capsule charisma of the act fled their recordings in the wake of studio access âÄî something that exposes the limited talent hidden beneath the static layers of their earlier tapes.

As a vocalist, Follin never opts for fierceness. She always plays her cotton-candy sweetness close to her chest. While she showed the capacity for cathartic howls last spring on tracks like âÄúThe Curse,âÄù Follin and Oblivion have limited their aural pallet to shallow three-chord songs about boys.

The albumâÄôs final minutes hint at bigger visions for their creative future. âÄúRave OnâÄù brings out a loud choral frontline to close out the most aggressively ecstatic moments of the record. But from the barely audible Jim Jones lines about life and death to the barely three-minute song lengths, Cults has patched together a recycled and underwhelming debut. They came onto the scene with some elating ideas. LetâÄôs hope they can figure out how to use them.

2 / 4 stars