ABOVE THE CURRENT
Fucked Up’s sixth album One Day is the sound of restraining a powerful creative behemoth that wants to rip through the walls at any minute. It’s also the Canadian hardcore band’s shortest full-length to date, and was written and recorded in a strict 24-hour period that continued when other collaborators touched the project further down the creative pipeline. The album is a spry and welcome change of pace from 2018’s trippy hardcore voyage Dose Your Dreams. A hallmark of Fucked Up’s aesthetic for well over a decade is layering each song cycle’s concept with a thick paintbrush, with that lore-building going all the way back to breakthrough albums in 2011 (David Comes to Life) and 2008 (The Chemistry of Common Life).
A band this far into its career is looking to avoid tripping over old habits, but there are some familiar shifts back to previous achievements that still work well. Vocalist Damian Abraham returns to contributing lyrics, something he hasn’t done since 2014’s Glass Boys. Abraham’s lyrical motifs this time read more like coiled-up and punch-drunk short stories than a detail-rich novella. These 10 tracks are workmanlike in their intent and outcomes as the band resets itself yet again. This time, it’s after a pause in touring due to the pandemic and alternative-universe releases such as the continuation of their Zodiac series, Year of the Horse, in 2021 and the Oberon EP’s fantasy-hardcore sludge fest last October.
Fucked Up needed to shake off the dust, and they get to work early on with One Day. The first salvo, “Found,” introduces the record with a tower of guitars as the song’s lyrics take on the impact of British colonization (“There I stood on the shore / Of a story we don’t tell anymore / All the names were erased / Buried under a land that my people stole”). The name of the track comes from Shadi Bartsch’s translation of The Aeneid, where she points out that the words “found” and “stab” bookend the story, which are two meanings for the same Greek verb.
Human exploration tends to lead to subjugation and exploitation, and oftentimes the blood of our past misdeeds is covered over in cobblestone and concrete. “Found” unearths those layers of historical wounds with a punk spirit, while later on the LP the anti-gentrification screed “Lords of Kensington” drags that conquest theme into the present day, finding inspiration in a Toronto community regularly subjected to police surveillance and violence.
While some themes are heavy in tone, others are drenched in light from a melodic slant. “I Think I Might Be Weird” goes for a neon-rock blast with a jaunty string section as Abraham sings, “One day they sail you off for glory / The next day they peel you from the floor.” That’s been one of the lasting appeals of Fucked Up: They’re one of the most seriously unserious punk bands currently working today, a delightful blend of high hardcore concepts and knotted punk unraveling our collective anxieties on stage.
The beautiful slow burner “Cicada” features guitarist Mike Haliechuk drawing the mic close. The ardent song is dedicated to old friends, and the cicada metaphor touches on humanity’s striving to burst from the dirt of the past and create art in spite of our impermanence. Haliechuk pleads for one more day with his friends, who he likens to faint stars in a sea of jet-black grief. Our memories and songs connect the dots into constellations. He ends the track by saying, “Your song will never end.”
If you wanted to tag this wild animal of an album, a repeated theme throughout One Day is the past haunting or informing the present. The stadium-rocker triptych that anchors down the back half—“Broken Little Boys,” “Nothing’s Immortal,” and “Falling Right Under”—carries that thematic torch. All three songs soundtrack the scuffles of culture and the individual. We roll in the filth of our pasts every day, and Fucked Up’s best songs tack this feeling to the wall.
The future, on the other hand, is a wilder thing to tame on any given day. Don’t be surprised if Fucked Up tears off all restraints for the next album or EP. One Day highlights just a moment in the evolving stream of time and a band caught in the current, but time passes so quickly it’s best to create your ripples before it’s too late. That’s the punk spirit right there.