I’m feeling old, and Fucked Up have a hand in that. Glass Boys, the Toronto punks’ fourth full-length is rousing, energetic, alive, and a whole lot of other flattering adjectives. It’s also the shortest album Fucked Up have released, and Glass Boys moshes along with admirable efficiency and an innate sense of confidence. It’s a prime example of the kind of genre revivalism that is so casually fluent that it practically dares you to accuse it of laziness. Fucked Up are serving up barbecue hardcore realness, low stakes and high energy, pairing smoothly with either microbrews or Pabst Blue Ribbon.
The album, for me, succeeds at its modest goals: when I listen to Glass Boys, I remember how it felt to be 16 and waiting for all-ages venue doors to open, heart in my throat, excited, nervous, and stoned. The first time I saw a bunch of punks form a ring around a tumble-down peer, I just about cried from the unforeseen sweetness of the custom. I was a sensitive child, and even at 30, I probably still am. But now when I get nervous before all-ages shows, it’s only because I try to avoid teenagers whenever possible. And so, if I’m feeling ambivalent, it’s only because Glass Boys opens up a multiverse within myself, leaving me to strain out all the little contradictions and inconsistencies. I enjoy this trawling feeling, but I also find it indulgent, toxic, and literally pathetic. It’s a little like smoking cigarettes, eating red meat, or you know, moshing: a sly, reckless pleasure derived from those things about which one should by now know better.
Punk in 2014 can probably also be counted among those reckless pleasures. There’s something goofy and immature about unsubtle music, perhaps even more so when the music is metacognitively aware of its own appeal, eager to pander to your questionable and sentimental urges.
Fucked Up open the record with a song called “Echo Boomer,” essentially roll-calling their generational constituency. As if the title weren’t enough, Fucked Up cannily announce their thesis by way of Mutt Lange sheen; when the Def Leppard drums kick in, three-quarters of the way through, Damian Abraham (nee Pink Eyes) states what should be obvious to any 80s babies listening: “I’m an echo,” you’re an echo, we’re all goddamned echoes. Whereas once we were only young, now we’re “so young and so old.” I should resist such blatant and brazen pandering, but then again, there’s comfort in simplicity, in sloganeering, etc.
My instincts tell me to blanch at this kind of thing, but when a pile of reedy voices start singing about “the privilege of mass illusion” at the end of “The Art of Patrons,” I find myself pumping fists in the air, alone in the privacy of my living room, rather than laughing at the empty anarchist bookstore-ishness of it all. This is usually the point at which I remind myself that Fucked Up’s logo is a play on the anarchy “A,” and that the silliest thing, really, is the fact that I’m taking any of this seriously.
And this is what gives me pause about Glass Boys: I recognize that I love it precisely for reasons pertaining to the album’s ridiculousness, shamelessness, and inauthenticity. Fucked Up’s previous records were wrapped up in conceptual trappings and demanded to be approached as serious art. Those three records were ambitious, thoughtful, often quite good, but also exhausting, under-emotional, sometimes a little boring. Glass Boys is the best album Fucked Up have released so far, by virtue of it being the “laziest” collection of their career. Even at 16, I recognized the quixotic absurdity of staying punk for life, and I can only assume that Fucked Up have also accepted this by now. In any case, they’ve definitely learned that it pays to pander to the sentimental yearnings of a generation that still has yet to grow into adulthood, which is, ultimately for me, the only maturation that truly matters.