Rumors of Fucked Up’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, most of all by the members of Fucked Up. Coming off the road for its most ambitious achievement, the 2011 double album David Comes to Life, the boundary-pushing Toronto hardcore band assumed it was done. Where could it possibly go after releasing an 80-minute, honest-to-God punk-rock opera a decade into a career that wasn’t expected to last more than a few years and a couple of 7-inches? A hiatus was announced, which in musical terms is usually code for “we’re breaking up.”
Then frontman Damian Abraham found himself in a room full of assholes—more specifically, an awards show. It was a moment of clarity, and inspiration.
“Everyone’s got a different definition of what is and isn’t selling out,” Abraham says. “For me, it was to find myself in the trenches with the enemy.”
Fucked Up couldn’t break up, he realized. Not yet. It had too much to answer for. Glass Boys, released in June, is the sound of a band raging against itself. It might seem odd to describe music built from layers of roaring guitars and Abraham’s throat-shredding growl as “introspective,” but the album is as inward-facing as hardcore gets. Grappling with age, the responsibilities of a band to the scene it came from and the possibility that Fucked Up’s success has, well, fucked up things for everyone who’s come after, it’s as intensely personal as it is sonically overwhelming.
It’s not the record Abraham initially envisioned, though. After his awards-show epiphany, he “wanted to make a really negative album,” lashing out at the music industry at a length comparable to David Comes to Life. Guitarist and co-lyricist Mike Haliechuk convinced him to dial back and get more reflective. The result is an album shorter than its predecessor but no less dense, and in some ways tells the story of a similarly doomed romance, of kids who fell in love with music, started a band...and then things got complicated. “Echo Boomer” explodes out the gate with arena-sized drums and tidal power chords, as Abraham barks, “I’m still the reflection of a dream/I had when I was 15.” By the concluding “Glass Boys,” the fragility of that dream manifests in anthemic guitars that eventually dissolve into a contemplative piano coda. In the end, Abraham is grateful he got talked out of the “long, punishing, self-confessional monstrosity” he first proposed.
“It was a cathartic process for me,” Abraham says. “I came out of making this record a lot more at peace with being in this band than I was on the other side.”
But issues remain. A father of two, Abraham is in a much different place in his personal life than his bandmates. He admits that, if the band no longer existed, he and childhood friend Haliechuk wouldn’t have much of a relationship. It’s too early in the Glass Boys promotional cycle to prognosticate Fucked Up’s future. Whenever it does end, chances are high the band won’t just fade away.
“My one hope is that
we can stop and take a couple years off legitimately and come back to it
rather than burn out completely,” Abraham says, laughing a bit
uneasily. “Which is a large possibility with this band—that when we
break up, it’ll be such a brutal process none of us will ever speak
again. I really feel that way with us sometimes, like it’s a
Fucked Up plays at 5:25 pm Aug. 17. Info and tickets at musicfestnw.com.