Fucked Up have spent two decades reimagining the rock band as a kind of research laboratory. No appreciation of the Toronto collective is complete without a litany of the experiments they’ve undertaken, and I won’t break with tradition here: Fucked Up have been a brawny, elemental hardcore band, as heard on their early 7″ output. They’ve expanded that sound into a kind of proggy chamber-punk, as on The Chemistry Of Common Life. They’ve tackled the double-album rock opera, first with the melodic but muscular David Comes To Life and later with the gleefully all-over-the-place Dose Your Dreams. They’ve made nine EPs inspired by the signs of the Chinese Zodiac. Last year, they released the stomping, sludgy Oberon, veering as close to metal as they ever have. That list covers maybe a quarter of the identities Fucked Up have embodied over the years. Words like “eclectic” and “chameleonic” are inadequate. Fucked Up are one-of-one.
Exploring all those guises has led Fucked Up to release a truly staggering amount of music, but proper full-lengths are still a relative rarity in their discography. One Day is just their sixth long-player, and their first in nearly five years. It is, by definition, their most experimental album to date, following the scientific meaning of an experiment as a test carried out to see what will happen under a particular set of conditions. The set of conditions for One Day is laid out in its title. Vocalist Damian Abraham, guitarist Mike Haliechuk, bassist Sandy Miranda, and drummer Jonah Falco had just 24 hours to write and track their parts. If past Fucked Up experiments were expansionary by nature – What if we opened a hardcore record with a flute solo? What if we played a 12-hour set? – then One Day is the first that was deliberately restrictive.
The restrictions paid dividends. One Day is the shortest Fucked Up full-length to date, its 10 punchy songs totaling just 40 minutes. It’s also their tightest and most focused. Anyone who’s ever been on deadline can attest to the almost supernatural power of a hard and fast time constraint, and it seems the 24-hour limit brought out the best in everyone. Haliechuk went first, stacking his bright, power-pop-inspired guitar parts in dense layers and forming the core of the songs. (The band’s wall-of-guitars sound used to be attributable to their triple-axe attack, but Ben Cook left the band in 2021, and Josh Zucker doesn’t appear on One Day. It’s all Haliechuk here.) Falco and Miranda added their drums and bass – Falco from the UK, Miranda from Toronto – taking Haliechuk’s twinkling guitars and giving them weight and propulsion. Abraham went last, writing lyrics for half the songs and stretching his reliably jagged yowl over all of them except the Haliechuk-fronted “Cicada.”
The four core members of Fucked Up put in their 24-hour shifts in isolation, but ironically, One Day might be the album where they sound the most like a band. Every other Fucked Up album has been a guest-heavy affair, culminating in Dose Your Dreams, which was so committed to its broader-ensemble approach that it asked Abraham to step away from the mic for long stretches. Haliechuk, Miranda, Falco, and Abraham are the only people who appear on One Day, and it’s refreshing to hear them lock in as a unit over the course of a full album the way they often do on their non-LP material. One Day isn’t a back-to-basics hardcore record, but it shares a certain sense of intimacy with those early 7″s — albeit a more sympathetic one. For years, Fucked Up played up in interviews that they didn’t really like one another, and that their collaboration was fueled by animus. If that’s still true, they’re doing a hell of a job hiding it.
It helps that One Day contains some of their best songs. Album opener “Found” is a driving, David Comes To Life-style barnburner and a searing self-critique on Canadian 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”). “I Think I Might Be Weird” sparkles and struts like glam-era Bowie, while Haliechuk’s moody, swirling “Cicada” is the best non-Abraham song Fucked Up have ever done. My favorite track might be the oddball “Nothing’s Immortal,” which starts out like Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” before morphing into Cheap Trick’s “Surrender.”
One Day’s thesis statement – musically, lyrically, and conceptually – is its title track. If you had to try and pin Fucked Up circa 2023 to a single sound, it would be exactly this kind of power-pop-gone-hardcore (or hardcore-gone-power-pop?), hard-hitting but bubbly and melodic. They started planting the seeds for that sound as far back as David Comes To Life, which they celebrated with a series of belated 10th-anniversary shows last summer. I went to one of those shows, and it was a striking encapsulation of Fucked Up’s evolution over the past decade and change. Abraham kept his shirt on all night, and he only went out into the crowd once. The band had Falco sing and play guitar for quieter, indie-rock versions of “Truth I Know” and “Life In Paper.” The crowd, once an anarchic, venue-sized mosh pit, mostly stood in place and headbanged politely. I’ve seen a naked guy crowd surf at a Fucked Up show before. Times have changed.
Time itself is the beating heart of One Day. The 24-hour conceit wasn’t just a clever musical experiment; it holds deep thematic resonance for an aging band with an aging fan base. There’s a little less sand in everybody’s hourglass than there was in the Hidden World days, and every grain is precious. But you’re never out of time until you’re out of time, and One Day argues that even if you die tomorrow, you still have 24 hours to do something meaningful. The title track’s chorus asks, “What could you do in just one day?” This album is Fucked Up’s excellent answer.
One Day is out 1/27 on Merge.
Other albums of note out this week:
• Parannoul’s After The Magic
• Sam Smith’s Gloria
• Samia’s Honey
• Meg Baird’s Furling
• White Reaper’s Asking For A Ride
• Popcaan’s Great Is He
• The Arcs’ Electrophonic Chronic
• The Tubs’ Dead Meat
• Lil Yachty’s Let’s Start Here
• H.C. McEntire’s Every Acre
• Oozing Wound’s We Cater To Cowards
• King Tuff’s Smalltown Stardust
• Ava Max’s Diamonds & Dancefloors
• Fatboi Sharif & Roper Williams’ Planet Unfaithful
• Florry’s SWEET GUITAR SOLOS
• Bass Drum Of Death’s Say I Won’t
• SG Lewis’ AudioLust & HigherLove
• Sightless Pit’s Lockstep Bloodwar
• Jonah Yano’s Portait Of A Dog
• The Dessner family’s self-titled debut as Complete Mountain Almanac
• R. Ring’s War Poems, We Rested
• triton.’s Sundown In Oaktown
• Crosslegged’s Another Blue
• Steve Vai’s Vai/Gash
• Heavy Blanket’s Moon Is
• XL Life’s The Boogie Down South
• Angel Electronics’ Ultra Paradise
• The Winspear Volume 01 compilation
• Bob Dylan’s Fragments – Time Out Of Mind Sessions (1996-1997): The Bootleg Series Vol.17
• New Order’s Low-Life (Definitive Edition)
• Pelican’s City Of Echoes (Deluxe)
• Carly Simon’s Live At Grand Central
• Gone To Color’s Gone To Color RMXS
• MadeinTYO’s Neo TYO
• Bad Bad Hats’ It Hurts (10th Anniversary Edition) EP
• TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s The Name Chapter: TEMPTATION EP