Fucked Up's new EP has them getting more experimental than ever, with mixed success.
Fucked Up has spent the better part of a decade flouting the conventions of their own genre and challenging listeners by making music that, while good, hasn’t always been particularly accessible or easy to listen to. The results have often been brilliant, like last year’s critically-acclaimed concept album David Comes to Life. Unfortunately, not every sonic experiment turns out so well.
Fucked Up’s latest two-song offering, Year of the Tiger—the sixth release in their Zodiac series of EPs—is half brilliant and half, well, something else.
The title track, “Year of the Tiger” further cements Fucked Up’s place in the pantheon of art-punk deities. The guitars ring out like bells, then swirl and crash into an ocean of noise. With a series of build-ups and break-downs, the 15-minute-long opus is like a tug of war between the melodic and the straight-up loud. Anthemic guitar riffs and simple drum patterns make the song sound almost martial at times. It brings to mind ’80s legends like Hüsker Dü and Mission of Burma, but is still uniquely Fucked Up, thanks in large part to the enraged growl of lead singer Damian “Pink Eyes” Abraham, which is balanced out by the softer female vocals of Austra’s Katie Stelmanis and Annie-Claude Deschenes from Duchess Says.
The B-side is where things get a little odd. “ONNO” is a song that can be summed up in one word: Long. Twenty-two minutes and six seconds long, to be specific. To give you some sense of perspective, that means it’s just four seconds shorter than the Descendents’ 1982 album Milo Goes to College, which is generally regarded as one of the best punk records of all time. As an 11-minute instrumental that gets played twice—once forward, once backwards—“ONNO” is better in theory than in practice. It goes beyond inaccessible, into the realm of the pointedly difficult.
Fucked Up aren’t just a band any more. They’re sonic scientists, and much like Marie Curie didn’t discover radium every time she stepped in the laboratory, Fucked Up aren’t going to create a work of genius every time they step in the studio. The fact that missteps are so few and far between is actually pretty remarkable.