Skip to main content

Morphing from psychedelic hardcore to pop rock, a Toronto band emerges from uncertainty with a staggering sixth album, One Day.Mimi Cabell

There was a moment, shortly before the world took a three-year pause, that Toronto’s shape-shifting psychedelic hard core group Fucked Up entered the realm of quantum physics: simultaneously existing and nonexisting.

The band had just returned home from a tour of New Zealand feeling acutely unmoored. Unsure of how to move forward after two decades of staggeringly diverse releases – their output includes but is not limited to a Christmas single with Nelly Furtado; a double rock opera about a light bulb factory worker; a Polaris Prize-winning, baroque progressive punk album; and a 12-part EP series inspired by the Chinese zodiac – the group was as ready to call it a day as they had ever been.

“It felt like the end of a chapter,” Mike Haliechuk, the group’s guitarist and main creative force, recalls over coffee on a chilly morning in Toronto’s Little Portugal neighbourhood.

After mulling it over, however, Haliechuk says he came to understand that quitting was not the answer. Instead, he conceived of a way to truly claw his maximalist collective back into being: They had to burn everything they held sacred. They had to make a pop-rock record.

Released late last month, One Day, the group’s sixth album, is a staggering hardcore-pop juggernaut. A meditation on gentrification, aging and class warfare, the album’s 10-song cycle clocks in at a tight 40 minutes and features the band’s most focused and catchy output to date. With nary a guest vocalist nor supernumerary guitar overdub in sight – a product both of the absence of the group’s other guitarists, Ben Cook (who left in 2021) and Josh Zucker, and the album’s conceit – the songs on One Day wouldn’t, at times, feel out of place on a Cheap Trick, Sugar, or Foo Fighters album, but for front man Damian Abraham’s gravelly delivery.

“It’s a bit of a left turn,” Haliechuk says of the album. “The thing is we’ve been chased by normalcy for so long that when we do try to do something normal, it confuses people.”

As its title hints at, One Day is an album recorded on a tight schedule. Each band member was tasked with conceiving and performing their parts in a 24-hour time period, with the hope of capturing a degree of immediacy and simplicity they never afforded themselves previously.

According to Haliechuk, the album serves as a tidy negative to the band’s previous release, the expansive, exploratory Dose Your Dreams.

“That album was a retelling of Ulysses, which chronicles one person’s life over one day,” he says. “I found that kind of poignant.”

Moreover, as he weighed the value of the band’s existence, Haliechuk says he began mulling the value of time itself, a theme that suitably rears its head throughout the record.

Not that the band hadn’t cunningly experimented with the concept of time previously. However, in purposely stripping the group to its very core, both in terms of personnel and sonic nature, what Haliechuk landed on was a potential new value proposition for the group. After the prolonged, multiyear production of the band’s previous two releases, he hoped One Day “could be a lesson,” he says. “Then it took another two years to come up with the lyrics.”

That Haliechuk’s concise intentions got perverted by a time-stopping pandemic seems to only validate his theory of the band.

“We’re success-proof,” he says with a laugh. “Like, we’re probably the only band that has ever done a full tour with the Foo Fighters and didn’t pick up a single fan.”

So what does he make of his attempt to reshape his solipsistic art punk group into a snackable form?

“I think Fucked Up has always been a weird person’s idea of pop music,” he says. “It’s like an alien coming to Earth and figuring out a few signifiers of what normal music is, and then trying to do that alone in your weird way.”

He continues: “I never go into the studio trying to make something extremely weird. Even if it’s one song and it’s 90 minutes long, that’s just what an opera is, right? That’s the most normal music there is. On the other hand, you don’t name your band Fucked Up if you want to succeed. That was the promise of our younger selves – you can spend your whole life doing this.”

At the very least, the experiment worked to pull the group out of its Schrodinger’s cat status, he says.

“We’re gentrifying normal. Now every other band has to do a 12-album series.”