As damning accusations go, selling out is pretty far down the list these days. Imagine Dr. Dre’s Apple play in 1971 terms, with Radio Shack angling for a piece of those coveted Bob Dylan-branded quadrophonic hi-fi systems. Fucked Up flipped the bird to the hardcore punk secret purist police with 2008’s The Chemistry of Common Life – first by making it with flutes, triumphant Who-style epic guitars and seven-minute songs, and then being so crass as to welcome the affections of the nation’s music critics, who forever cursed the Toronto band by awarding them the Polaris Music Prize. (Sellouts!)
2011’s David Comes To Life, a melodic and ambitious concept album (still sellouts!) was, in a roundabout way, an attempt to come to grips with their notoriety, if not quite fame. Now we have Glass Boys, closer in sound to Chemistry but inward-looking, finally, after all that’s happened. “I wish I could go back, glass boy,” Damian Abraham hollers in that well-honed dying-breath scream, “I'm afraid to grow up ... so I just sit and turn to glass, boy.” The album rages majestically, even as Abraham and guitarist/co-lyricist Mike Haliechuk turn on themselves with the venom they once reserved for Robert Picton and religious zealots (“the cash in his hand changes a man”), daring to grow old.
The funny thing is, the people who are angriest about their supposed transgressions are Fucked Up themselves. The rest of us get to enjoy their cathartic cleansing vicariously, while they tear themselves apart. In the end, we know they’ll be okay – because they still care. I, for one, am looking forward to the Coca-Cola Presents Fucked Up reunion tour in 2045 (VIP tickets plus meet-and-greet: $750).