Fucked Up are a punk band. They were a punk band when they started in Toronto more than a decade ago, and they’ve remained a punk band even as they’ve ascended to career heights that their younger selves never could’ve imagined. But how do you remain a punk band when you’re on magazine covers, or sharing stadium stages with the Foo Fighters? How do you stay true to your 15- year-old self when you’ve got a career to maintain, and families to support? Those are the questions that Fucked Up asks on Glass Boys. And they ask those questions in the form of a blazing, titanic, ultimately triumphant rock album.
The last two Fucked Up albums were sweeping, defining, monolithic gestures. On 2008’s The Chemistry Of Common Life, they tested hardcore’s capacity for stylistic innovation, for seven minute songs and unconventional arrangements, and they won Canada’s prestigious Polaris Music Prize in the process. With 2011’s David Comes To Life, they offered up a full-blown rock opera, coming with one larger-than-life hook after another, and that made them even bigger, and further away from the Toronto hardcore scene that nurtured them. Glass Boys isn’t a retrenchment or a back-to-basics move; it’s too ambitious and complex for that. But after those last two albums, it’s tight and concise and direct, an album of real and direct sentiment rather than artifice.
Musically, Glass Boys carries echoes of some of the more ragged and adventurous bands from America’s punk past (Husker Du, Dinosaur Jr.), but it also has some of the anthemic charge of the Who and the guttural intensity of Negative Approach. Singer Damian Abraham still growls like a demon, but he’s found more range and depth in his bark. Drummer Jonah Falco does something innovative on the LP, adding two separate drum tracks, one of them in half-time, adding a psychedelic, disorienting feel. (A limited vinyl edition of the album includes a bonus version that only features Falco’s half-time drums.) The triple-guitar battalion of Mike Haliechuk, Ben Cook, and Josh Zucker still builds symphonies out of feedback and power-chords, but this time around, there’s less emphasis on world-crushing riffs and more on world-creating textures. Bassist Sandy Miranda is now even more a part of that storm, her instrument blurring in with that overwhelming guitar roar.
And if the album’s lyrics concern the quest to stay true to your younger self, the music pulls off the trick beautifully. “Echo Boomer,” like “Son The Father” and “Let Her Rest” before it, makes for a powerful album opener, a surge of catharsis that gives a strong idea of what’s to come. “Sun Glass” builds from acoustic strumming to bleary pummel and stays pretty the whole time. “DET” has one of those world-annihilating choruses that demands a full-room singalong. And the album-closing title track is a blast of epic catharsis as grand and forceful as anything this band has ever done. After two monumental concept-driven concept albums, Fucked Up have made another heart-expanding, life-affirming piece of work, and this time, they’ve done it by shooting straight from the heart.
Forever cascading forward in a positive direction, gleefully instinctive, No Age erupt out of your speakers, blasting away the clouds above the smoggy cityscape to reveal a solar flaring sun. With an ecstatic force bubbling around and beyond their music, they release contagious energy like they're main-lining a field full of whirring wind turbines, while tuned into an ancient celestial power source.
No Age is the duo of Dean Spunt and Randy Randall, they are on a constant journey to explore the furthest reaches of sound. They set out with one particular rule in mind: To write songs that we would be psyched to listen to. On a first listen, discovering each new dose of their alchemy is exhilarating—they produce perfectly crafted songs, underpinned by infectious melodies and ear-piercing cacophony. This swirling mix of unstoppable momentum is catapulted into the stratosphere by sweeping bursts of symphonic growls. Their power is enunciated through their ability to take their core of catchy song-writing and expand its emotional influence through tone, structure and noise. Everything in Between, their third album and follow-up to 2008's Nouns has now arrived.
The pair has now shifted far beyond their LA skate-punk origins, accentuating their development in each and every creak and crack on Everything in Between. The record represents a bold step in their creative evolution, it documents their lives and their artistic progression more prominently welded into a permanent union. It is a culmination of reflecting upon life's ruptures and triumphs; the process of moving through these moments banged and bruised, yet better off for the wear and tear. These moments have provided fervent creative springboards, inspiring Dean and Randy to push the limits of sound collage and song arrangements further than they have before. From the huge parts to the quiet sound-escapes, Everything in Between is more intentional and composed, constructing an honestly raw and captivatingly detailed record.
Dean and Randy connect the dots within the heritage of their constellation of influences: The Byrds through Husker Du, John Cale through The Ramones, The Go-Betweens through My Bloody Valentine; SST to Flying Nun, Sub Pop to Creation. All excitedly routed through the fury of the American underground. Influences are not regurgitated in a reverential style, but soaked up, understood, ripped apart, shredded, collaged and articulated into an inimitable sound through their dense layers of fuzz, haze and experimental art-pop.
They emerged from former band Wives in 2005, to become No Age, worldwide glowing talismans for the DIY art-punk scene in LA, now famously known as having its epicenter at The Smell, a clubhouse where art-life/music-life welded and inspired a creative movement and attitude which has fertilized a purple patch of like-minded punkers and artists around the globe. Since the release of Weirdo Rippers, their 2007 debut album (on FatCat Records), through Nouns, the band's 2008 follow-up on Sub Pop, and beyond, No Age has earned enthusiastic notice from an incredibly wide array of sources; from Pitchfork to The New Yorker ("Let It Rip," Nov. 19, 2007), and found themselves unlikely Grammy nominees (for Best Recording Packaging in 2008). No Age have risen from sweaty basement shows and art galleries to having their songs blast off the walls of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), to performing at unconventional spaces both close to home and abroad.
The pair released Losing Feeling, a four-song EP, in 2009 and then spent six months, on and off, recording this new album from November through May. It's the longest they've spent recording any project. They also found the time to soundtrack a short film from photographer Todd Cole for fashion label Rodarte, and wrote and performed a soundtrack to the Jean Jacques Annaud film The Bear. And the extra time was well-spent: editing down 25 songs to a lucky 13, and allowing for greater perspective by playing the new songs on the road at random shows in random towns, to reflect and fall in love with certain songs, and fall back in love with other songs.
Everything in Between is loaded with the epic jams you've come to love from No Age. You'll be rapidly addicted to the tingling sensations and uplift of "Glitter," "Fever Dreaming," "Shred and Transcend," and the final sweet flare of "la-la-la's" on "Sorts" will make your soul fizz wildly. They've pushed themselves in challenging and different directions, deconstructing their weird-out pop songs while still maintaining their original aesthetic and intent. Where their explorations in sound were previously suspended separately around instrumental reveries and misty coatings of distortion, these abstractions are now adding to the emotion and euphoria throughout every song. Melody is formed from noise and samples; disorienting rhythms, howling tones, fuzzed-out scuffs, cuts and grazes, and heart-wrenching skree are all vital to embellishing the raw sentiment of the album.
At times it feels heavy, especially when Dean utters the refrain to the Bowie-tinted, "Common Heat": Why do I come so close expecting to control/everyone around me knows I'm in trouble. It's like they're shedding a skin, cathartically transmuting past mistakes and pains into something positive. In so many ways, these punks have come of age. There's a genuine and apparent baring of the soul here which manifests itself most clearly in the album's two solo instrumentals (the first time they've included solo songs on an album). Both Dean's "Dusted" and Randy's "Positive Amputation" sway with melancholy vapors, adrift with life's intense push and pull, though eventually burst free into a euphoric escape. The effect leaves you woozy and light-headed like you've spun around in a frenzy, arms outstretched, eyes sky-gazing as clouds giddily orbit your head.
With Everything in Between No Age proudly flies along personal artistic lines with no codes or rules, but a clear sense of who they are, and how much they can continue to explore sound within their own constructs. There is fire and magic in crafting sound to exude such positive feeling. It's a fire with such warmth and life, you never want it to burn out. With No Age it is now clear this fire is effervescent, sparking and infinite. It will never fade away.