If you ever wondered what a good version of post '86 Black Flag sounds like (since now we know because we've been blighted with What The…) then you'd almost assuredly be looking at one of Toronto, Ontario's finest exports: Fucked Up.
Fucked Up is one of the most prolific bands in the history of hardcore/punk. The amount of releases they have to their name is staggering. Bands that have been around for thirty years don't make these numbers. And the current count is 84 in case you needed a number. Nevertheless, quality over quantity right? Seems that Fucked Up are intent on having it both ways. Their seventh release in the (Chinese) Zodiac series continues their venture into twenty-minute songs but still exercises their inventive muscles.
For me, the Zodiac series has been hit and miss. Year of the Pig and Year of the Rat felt mediocre in their presentation and the songs were largely forgettable. But that's also the issue with longer songs: you've got to craft something that's going to hold the attention of listeners for more than four minutes (though the average Fucked Up song is generally longer than that). And in my case, you gotta hold the attention span of someone who has a problem finishing sentences in real life.
Fucked Up are an ever evolving/experimenting unit, and Year of the Hare, as well as the whole of this album series, exists almost to remind us of that. “Year of the Hare” as a track is something that's going to play with you rather than play to you. The track starts out oddly with a heavier focus on silence than instrumentation until the two minute mark. As the piece drags on the band take to throwing these dashes of energy into our ears. Little bursts that make it sound like the track is going to kick in until it actually kicks in.
Once about six minutes have passed we're in familiar territory. The catchy guitar leads, the warm tones and Damian Abraham's gruff vocals. However, it doesn't last for that long. And this is the song at its strongest. The piece runs the gamut of hardcore/punk, shoegaze and post rock influences with some excellent and memorable instrumentation. And then it ends. Or rather, the song moves on and everything shifts direction. The piece goes slow and plays on with guest vocals from Isla Craig. And then it loops back around, toying with the listener once more before ending.
The second track, or b-side in this instance, is “California Cold.” Significantly shorter than the title track, “California Cold” clocks in at only eight-and-a-half minutes and feels like it has a much stronger focus on experimentation than its predecessor. It's also the stronger song. Synth and loop dominate the track, with the meat and potatoes being at the beginning, possibly; meaning you get down to business and then the track slowly lets you down.
Year of the Hare is okay in the end. There's nothing terrible about it but there isn't anything very interesting about it either. Though with the Zodiac series this isn't anything new. The fact that Fucked Up stick it out and are committed is impressive though. And, though I seldom talk about it, the artwork for this one just seems off in comparison to other releases (what a blossoming Jane Doe has to do with this album I guess is just above me, and yes, I know Jacob Bannon did the artwork). Perhaps one day one of these Zodiac tracks will be completely off the wall and really impressive. Until then it's another mediocre year.
As always, you can find me here.