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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Back when we were smart...

...We used to write stuff like this all time time.



The Mindful Bard
Fucked Up, The Chemistry of Common Life

Books, Music, and Film to Wake Up Your Muse and Help You Change the World
Wanda Waterman St. Louis
Volume 17 Issue 03 2009-01-23

CD: Fucked Up, The Chemistry of Common Life

Release date: 2008

Label: Matador Records

Demon Spawn Acid Punk Call-to-Arms Rousing the Fainthearted to Radical Consciousness

Ignite the crust
Inseminate the dust
The cultured quartz that rises high
The stone refined that lives and shines
Be the vessel, be the knife stone and metal
Come to life in the crux
The cross divine
The shell, the purpose, the sublime . . .

Fucked Up, title track, The Chemistry of Common Life

In the story of the Pied Piper the town of Hamelin is teeming with rats. The townspeople have done all they can to oust the vermin, to no avail, so when a flutist comes to town and offers, for a sum, to charm the rats away the people immediately agree to his terms. But once the rats have been led away to drown in the river the townsfolk don’t think it necessary to pay the piper. Later on, he returns for their children.

The Chemistry of Common Life places a value on beginnings and endings. The title song is at once a creation hymn and an ode to the apocalypse. The album opens and closes with a flute soliloquy; the tune at the start is like an offer of redemption, the warble at the end somewhat less beatific. You can almost hear somebody saying, “You failed to give me what you promised, so I’m taking your children.”

It seems the children are following, entranced, in droves. Fucked Up’s career has so far straddled the two George W. Bush terms, and aptly so; their music is a radically fitting response to an era notorious for expensive and life-destroying exercises in futility, not to mention broken deals with rat catchers.

History regurgitates. The ‘70s–‘80s punk phase was timed to coincide with recession, Reaganomics, and mounting conservatism. Punk rock issued a loud challenge to the dirty dealers of the time while deliberately avoiding the hypocrisies exhibited by ‘60s pop culture icons.

Having come of age in this grimily divine epoch there is still a warm place in my heart for incarnations of punk in its sincerest forms.

It’s hard to get more sincere than Fucked Up, which manages to create poignancy with screaming vocals and ripping power chords (is such a thing even possible?). Not only are the message and poetry of the lyrics delightfully (or offensively?) at odds with the hardcore sound, you can barely hear what the singer is saying.

If it weren’t for the liner notes you wouldn’t imagine that the rebel yells included lines like “The Greek gods watch down from the heights of Mount Zion joking that the worship of the literal doesn’t fade with time . . .”

The theology is questionable but intriguing, and I’d be the last to question the poet’s right to disseminate ideas; to paraphrase Reginald Shepherd, poets initiate the future.

This is neither the self-indulgent word-diarrhea of the art rockers nor the self-consciously simple-minded ditties of so many garage band wannabes. “Crooked Head,” for example, is at once a stirring anthem to psychological anomaly and a kind of Zen renunciation of worldly ambitions.

The lead singer is rumoured to have schizophrenia, which if true, is one clear sign of the band’s punk integrity; taking the outcasts of society and placing them centre-stage, like Joey Ramone with his obsessive-compulsive disorder, or Ian Dury with his polio-damaged limbs, is a reliable demonstration of the punk ethos.

We have some cause to worry about great bands like this when society at large changes tides. Punk rock seems culturally more significant during those times when bozos have the wheel and use it to force us into reverse, but recent developments in the US have given its citizens an unprecedented optimism which is rippling throughout the world. In times like these, can a band like Fucked Up continue to be relevant? I’m anxious to see.

The Chemistry of Common Life manifests eight of The Mindful Bard’s criteria for music well worth a listen: 1) it is authentic, original, and delightful; 2) it confronts, rebukes, and mocks existing injustices; 3) it displays an engagement with and compassionate response to suffering; 4) it inspires an awareness of the sanctity of creation; 5) it is about attainment of the true self; 6) it provides respite from a sick and cruel world, a respite enabling me to renew myself for a return to mindful artistic endeavour; 7) it stimulates my mind; and 8) it poses and admirably responds to questions which have a direct bearing on my view of existence.

The Bard could use some help scouting out new material. If you discover any books, compact disks, or movies which came out in the last twelve months and which you think fit the Bard's criteria, please drop a line to bard@voicemagazine.org. For a list of criteria, go here. If I agree with your recommendation, I'll thank you online.

7 Comments:

Blogger Ape Mummy said...

Is that the Slate review? Man, they just add joy to it all.

7:21 AM  
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