Fucked Up: Couple Tracks: Singles 2002-2009


RIYL: Pissed Jeans, Minor Threat, FEAR

Fucked Up’s The Chemistry of Common Life was the best album of the decade (if you ask me). The downside to releasing an album that good, of course, is that now they have some pretty high standards to live up to. Couple Tracks is actually composed entirely of material that pre-dates that masterpiece, culling from the band’s extensive 7” singles discography, most of which were never released digitally or even on CD. While it may be unfair to compare this earlier material to what came later, it’s impossible not to.

Luckily most of Couple Tracks comes close to living up to the high standards set forth by the band’s later work. “Triumph of Life” and “Black Hats” both hint at the wall of noise sound that was to come on The Chemistry of Common Life, and pulse-pounding, ready-made moshers like “Ban Violins” and “Dangerous Fumes” show that before Fucked Up was tearing down the boundaries of what it meant to be a hardcore band, they were working within the confines of the genre damn well. The band even lets their artistic and avant-garde guard down with a series of covers, which include “Anorak City” (originally by Another Sunny Day) and “I Don’t Want to Be Friends with You” (originally by the Shop Assistants). It’s silly, for sure, but it shows the rarely seen lighter side of Fucked Up, as they transform both songs into Ramones-style punk numbers. Also showing off the band’s sense of humor is “Generation,” which is a purposely stupid anthem song meant to rally the easily led.

Unfortunately there is a bit of filler on here. Early versions of album cuts “Crooked Head” and “No Epiphany” seem like pointless additions, and the live tracks from a Daytrotter session are fun, but more vinyl-only rarities would have been preferred. Still, if you’re a hardcore fan of the band but missed out the singles the first time around (or you just don’t have the turntable to play them), then this collection is pretty much essential. If you’re new to the band and only know The Chemistry Of Common Life the more straightforward sound of Couple Tracks might surprise you, but you’ll still find something to like. (Matador 2010)

Fucked Up MySpace Page

  

21st Century Breakdown: James B. Eldred’s Top 10 Albums of the Decade

Oy, this decade was a mess. The ’90s were easy. Rock had grunge, hip-hop had gangsta rap and a genre-defining electronic album seemed to come out every week thanks to artists like Aphex Twin, the Prodigy and the Orb (just to name a few). There was no Zeitgeist-turning moment in music this decade, no Next Big Thing. Instead, we saw mainstream rock dissolve into a post-grunge funk from which it might never recover, while pop music infiltrated rap music in insulting and embarrassing ways (thanks, Auto-Tune). Meanwhile, both the punk rock kids and hippies discovered electronic music, giving Pitchfork whole new genres of music to build up and tear down.

We’re more fragmented then ever – case in point: of all the albums selected by the writers who’ve contributed to our End of Decade series, only one album has been selected twice – which means that there’s something out there for anyone, but nothing for everyone. It sucks if you like the idea of a rock band being bigger than Jesus, especially if you don’t want that band to be U2. But if you like the idea that at any given moment there’s probably an album being released that will appeal to just you a few thousand other people, then this is a great time to be alive. However, that also means the chances of finding something truly “original” are next to nil. We’re getting to a point where it feels like everything has been done, and everyone is just paying homage, making pastiche or ripping off something that came before.

That being said, there were still a few original albums to make their way to my ears this decade, and almost all of them ended up being my favorites. So while you say this is my “best of” list for the decade, you could also call it my “most original” list as well.

1. Fucked Up: Chemistry of Common Life
Canadian indie rock seemed to be the scene of the ’00s, and while it gave us some good music, most of it bored me. It was just so damn pleasant. And Fucked Up is a lot of things, but pleasant isn’t one of them. In fact, almost everything about them, from their R-rated name to the abrasive vocals of their lead singer (who goes by the name Pink Eyes) almost dares you not to like them. I sure as hell didn’t at first; it seemed like they were trying too hard to be “outrageous.” But when they give you a song as brilliant as “Son the Father” with its goosebump-inducing riff and the best lyric of the decade (“It’s hard enough being born in the first place / Who would ever wanna be born again?”), it’s impossible not to take notice. This is hardcore punk’s Dark Side of the Moon and will probably be just as influential in the years to come.

2. Arcade Fire: Funeral
Okay, so not all of the indie-rock from Canada bored me. I didn’t want to like Arcade Fire, I didn’t want to fall for their melancholy lyrics and haunting melodies, and I didn’t want to be put under enchantment by the haunting closing track “In The Backseat.” It just kind of happened that way. Damn Canadians and their near-perfect records.

3. Hell: Teufelswerk
An as-yet-unheard masterpiece, although there is some hope still since it only came out this year. Teufelswerk picks up where The Orb’s Adventures into the Underworld left off, taking the listener on a journey across two discs that include ambient, house, electro and just about everything else in between. Not made entirely for the dance floor, it’s the kind of electronic album that should have mainstream appeal, even with its 13-minute tracks and bizarre guest appearance roster of Bryan Ferry and Diddy. If you consider yourself a fan of electronic music and you don’t have this album, you’re doing it wrong.

4. At the Drive-In: Relationship of Command
It came out in 2000, and nearly 10 years later there’s still nothing that sounds remotely like it. It’s usually pegged as an emo record, (the first time I heard the word “emo” was in regards to this record) but modern emo has little in common with this masterpiece of tempo changes, passionate vocals and adrenaline-fueled insanity. Too bad the band couldn’t survive much past the album’s release, and the two offshoots they formed after the break-up, the Mars Volta and Sparta, have come close to even matching this record in the years that have followed. Of course, almost no one else has, either.

5. Marnie Stern: This Is It And I Am It…
“This chick is kinda nuts,” said my editor when he pitched this CD to me. I’m naturally attracted to insane women, so that’s partially why I took a shine to Stern so quickly, but it mostly had to do with the fact that I’ve heard nothing like her before. She’s some heavenly combination of Van Halen and Sleater-Kinney, taking guitar virtuosity and mixing it with riot grrl passion to create an entirely one-of-a-kind sound in the process. She’s her own beast, creating her own genre which should just be called “holy shit music,” because that’s all I can think to myself when I hear her.

6. Deltron 3030: Deltron 3030
Indie hip-hop may be easy to find now, but in 2000 there was no scene for that, at least there wasn’t in my consciousness. I still don’t remember how I found this record, which is a crazy concept album about an intergalactic rap battle in the year 3030, but I remember being pleasantly surprised when a year later everyone involved on it (Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, DJ Kid Koala, Dan the Automator and Damon Albarn) went on to form Gorillaz. But this album is still better than anything those animated monkeys put out. It isn’t only the best hip-hop album of the decade, but the most original as well.

7. Mastodon: Leviathan
Prog-rock and heavy metal, two great tastes that taste great together, especially when used to create a concept album based on “Moby Dick.” Mastodon’s early albums showed promise, but this seafaring epic really sealed the deal and heralded their arrival as “the” metal band in 2004. It was also the first album to show me that popular metal was finally getting past that nu-metal BS that nearly ruined the genre at the turn of the millennium. There needs to be more metal based on classic American novels. I’m waiting for a metal interpretation of “The Age of Innocence.”

8. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: It’s Blitz!
The biggest 180 of the decade. Sounding nothing like their previous records, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs didn’t go dance-punk for their third LP, they went full-on dance – like a rocking version of Kylie Minogue. You’re not going to hear a better dance track this year than “Zero,” unless you count all the other up-tempo numbers on this flawless record.

9. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Fever to Tell
Oh yeah, and their first album wasn’t half bad, either.

10. The Strokes: Is This It?
The poster band and the poster album for the for the poster genre (post-punk revival) that was supposed to become the Next Big Thing. And while that didn’t really happen, we still got some really good records out of it, this one still being the best. And even if you didn’t like it, you have to admit that it probably got a bunch of kids listening to the Stooges for the first time. And the UK version (see photo) had the best album cover of the decade as well.

  

Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums of 2008: Staff Writer James Eldred’s picks

Top 10 Albums of 2008

1. Fucked Up: The Chemistry of Common Life
Are they hardcore? Post-hardcore? Experimental? Post-experimental? Is that last one even a genre? Maybe it is now. Describing Fucked Up is as impossible as saying their name on the radio. Who else has combined flute solos with Black Flag-style hardcore vocals, ambient keyboards and just about everything else you can possibly imagine? It’s NOFX meets Hüsker Dü meets Fugazi meets everything awesome, dangerous and exciting about rock and roll. Also winner of the best cover of 2008.

2. Marnie Stern: This Is It…
Sleater-Kinney style riot-grrl rock by a guitar-playing chick who seems to base all of her chords off of Van Halen’s “Eruption.” It’s like someone randomly looked up two musical subgenres on Wikipedia (indie-rock and guitar virtuoso) and decided to mix them together. Marnie Stern is a guitar goddess whose unearthly ability at fingertapping and shredding her axe will one day be uncovered by future archaeologists, who will be in awe.

3. Crystal Castles: Crystal Castles
By combining the bleeping bloops from the soundchip of an old Atari with the frightening howls of petite lead singer’s Alice Glass’ powerful voice, Crystal Castles have taken the punk/dance thing to new and exciting places and shown us that the Chiptune scene is more than just a novelty scene capitalizing off of twentysomethings’ nostalgia for 8-bit video games. Also winner of the worst cover of 2008.

4. Portishead: Third
Wow, 11 years was worth the wait, who knew? Third goes to show that when you invent a genre (trip-hop), you can take as damn well long as you please to re-invent it. Third is a minimalist masterpiece that proves sometimes all you need is a drum machine and haunting vocals to make a dance track work.

5. Girl Talk: Feed the Animals
If Third is minimalism, then Girl Talk’s Feed the Animals is maximalism, hyperbolic remixing gone horribly right. Girl Talk (Gregg Gillis) took over 170 different songs to craft his journey though the pop music landscape, making unlikely collaborations like Lil’ Mama and Metallica, Outkast and Roy Orbison, and Souja Boy and Thin Lizzy in the process. Gilis also proved himself to be a musical alchemist with Feed the Animals, turning shit like Arvil Lavinge’s “Girlfriend” and Fergie’s “XX” into pop gold by crafty remixing and moshing.

6. Be Your Own Pet: Get Awkward
Needless censoring by brain-dead American record labels couldn’t hamper this great follow-up to BYOP’s self-titled debut. Their subsequent break-up sure did, though. A bummer, but they sure went out with a bang. Black Flag reincarnated as a hot nearly-underage girl and her three best friends. Here’s hoping we hear more from them in future in some form or another.

7. Does It Offend You, Yeah?: You Have No Idea What You’re Getting Yourself Into
LCD Soundsytem and their DFA label ilk may be responsible for the rebirth of dance-punk, but the British have been taking it to a whole other level, first with Hot Chip and now with this horribly-named foursome from Reading. DIOYY combine the bombastic arena-rock majesty of Britpop groups like Muse with undeniably catchy electronic hooks better than anyone has in recent memory. Doesn’t change the fact that their name still sucks.

8. TV on the Radio: Dear Science
When are they going to release a bad album? Seriously, it’s getting rather annoying because there’s nothing more to say about them. Dear Science is as good as Return to Cookie Mountain which was in turn as good as Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes. They’re giving us cynical bastards nothing to work with here, nothing! How selfish is that?

9. Santogold: Santogold
The best indie-pop/new wave.punk/synthpop/electronic/rap record of the year. And yes, thanks to MIA, there was competition.

10. Kaiser Chiefs: Off With Their Heads
Remember when all those post-punk revival bands broke out? The Hives, the Strokes, the Vines, the Killers and these guys – who weren’t team players and willing to get behind the whole The Somethings name structure? Who had them pegged to be going three albums strong while the rest of the lot have either vanished or become washed up? “Never Miss a Beat” also wins for best single of the year.

  

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