What is there to say about Fucked Up that hasn't already been said before? They used to play hardcore. They've been all over MTV2 Canada. They like to get a rise out of people. They had a minor feud with Billy Talent. In print they have to go by F'ed Up due to their name. They're one of the only punk acts Pitchfork praises. Their songs equal progressive rock in terms of proficiency and length. Some people love Fucked Up, others can't stand them.
I'm going to be 100% honest here: I am only a casual fan of Fucked Up. For every Fucked Up song that I enjoy, there's at least two or three that I don't really care for. It's not that I hate any of their songs, just not every song calls to me. At least that's how it was before David Comes to Life. This album probably brings that ratio up a bit, so now it's more like an even 1:1.
With that in mind, I do really enjoy the ideas that Fucked Up bring to music even if I don't think all of them are successful. David Comes to Life is a rock opera about a guy (David) who works at a light bulb factory who meets a girl (Veronica) and they fall in love and plot to blow up stuff and things go all wacky... or something. At times it even seems to take a "Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV, Vol 1."-esque twist in that the characters interact with the person narrating the story. I'm not actually sure what the story is outside of David and Veronica meeting and falling in love. So in terms of having a difficult to understand story, David Comes to Life isn't much different from other rock operas.
The sound is where this album really shines. Musically, the album plays almost like a classic rock album. Monumental drumming, neat guitar solos, power chords that ring out, epic background harmonies, this album has a lot of the same elements that I heard growing up thanks to my dad. "Remember My Name" would be right at home on an album by The Who at the peak of their career, while the acoustic guitar intro to "A Slanted Tone" reminds me of Led Zeppelin at their folkiest. At this point, I don't think anyone really considers Fucked Up to be a hardcore band anymore. Calling them progressive rock doesn't really fit the bill either. Is is arena rock they're playing? I don't know. No matter what genre the band adopts, they will always have a hardcore singer. Which is great though: it allows the band to be creative and explore new styles without having to give up their identity because they can always be easily identified by Damien Abraham's trademark growl. While he has expanded his range too, he still screams with the same intensity that any singer has when playing in a basement with a broken microphone. The album has expanded to feature female vocals to represent the female characters in some tracks ("Queen of Hearts" and "One More Night" for example) and they work very nicely with Abraham's screams, while also reminding the listener that there is a story being told within the songs.
The album does run on for a little too long for my tastes. I'm a guy who enjoys a 35 minute play time, so when I listen to something that runs on for an hour and 17 minutes, it's a little intimidating. I have enjoyed most of the tracks individually (I've definitely devoted more time to the first half more than the second), but when it comes to a rock opera I think it's important on how all the songs work together as a cohesive unit. In that respect, I think Fucked Up did a wonderful job. Even the final track "Lights Go Up" ends with the same sounds that track one "Let Her Rest" begin with, signifying a cyclical nature of things.
So what's the final verdict? I don't see it being my Album of the Year pick, but I like it. My favorite Fucked Up album so far, in spite of its run time and hard-to-understand story.
Queen of Hearts
The Other Shoe
Running on Nothing
Remember My Name
Serve Me Right
Life in Paper