Sound — 7
Judging a book by its cover, it's no surprise that a band with a name as brazen as Fucked Up is a band that makes hardcore punk music - however, the pre-conceived, cover-judging notion that the only thing to expect from FU is relentless, browbeating sound (the key characteristics of hardcore music) wouldn't necessarily be true. While FU's sound contains the appropriate skeleton of hardcore punk - loud and overdriven guitar chords, energetic drums, and the strong, coarse voice of lead vocalist Damian Abraham - they've always strived to include other elements in their compositions that are outside of the box of conventional hardcore punk. Though doing this always bears a risk of pissing off traditionalist fans of a music genre and can be written off as diluting or deviating too much from the heart of the style of a genre, FU has received critical acclaim throughout their releases for their innovation; and with their latest album, a four-act rock opera composition entitled "David Comes to Life," being just as artistically ambitious as it was lauded, the expanding fanbase of FU was wondering how FU was going to follow up after an album with such grandeur - unfortunately, FU was wondering the exact same thing. With lead vocalist Abraham and lead guitarist Mike Haliechuk acting as dual head-honchos for FU, they were in disputes about what the band's fourth album should be. Abraham wanted to continue down the road of making concept albums, while Haliechuk wanted to step away from elaborate endeavors and make an album that was more conventional. In the end, Haliechuk's preference would come out on top, and the result would be FU's fourth album, "Glass Boys."
The general goal of "Glass Boys" is a substantial contrast to the previous "David Comes to Life": with "David Comes to Life" bearing intricacies both in sound and lyrical aspects, "Glass Boys" is concerned with providing a "meat and potatoes" hardcore punk approach. With more focus being put on the standard instruments rather than adding several elements to greatly expand the soundscape, and opting for a less-refined and more traditional approach to production in hardcore punk, the album is much rougher around the edges than its predecessor, which may be welcomed by some and rejected by others. With the three-pronged guitar force of the band supplying the album with hefty amounts of feedback and some great intertwining guitar lines in songs like "The Art of Patrons," "DET," "The Great Divide" and "Glass Boys," there are some instances where guitar lines become muddy and messy in tracks, such as in "Touch Stone," "Warm Change" and "Led by Hand"; though in these cases, the clear sound from the bass-lines helps amplify its own presence in the clutter of guitar noise. And while for the most part, the gritty guitars and abrasive vocals from Abraham are what lead the sound aspect of the album, FU still manages to balance some tracks with rich melody: such as the harmonious backing vocals juxtaposing Abraham's screaming in "Sun Glass" and "Glass Boys"; the psychedelic-influenced guitar solo in "Warm Change"; and the piano interlude that closes the album in the outro of "Glass Boys."
Lyrics — 7
FU has done interviews prior to the release of "Glass Boys" where they've talked about the path they've traveled as a band, they're "glass-half-full" and "glass-half-empty" perspectives on their success, and an ominous forecast of if and when their band will be no more, with Haliechuk going so far as to say FU should no longer exist. Whether you want to call it unnecessary dramatization or being poignantly self-aware, FU channels their feelings about this in the lyrics of the album. From the recalling of teenage aspirations to be a musician in the first place in the opening track "Echo Boomer" and the changing of positions from being inspired by music to being a musical inspiration in "Touch Stone," to realizing your feelings of dissatisfaction with what you do in "Paper the House" and bargaining with yourself that you've made the right decisions in "The Art of Patrons," the album is filled with statements of personal reflection from Abraham and Haliechuk. On one hand, this theme can be regarded as honest and brave, with the risk of "breaking down the fourth wall" being taken in order to express how the band truly feels; on the other hand, some could view this 40-and-some-odd-minute confessional to be too neurotic and the meta-concept a bit lazy - when your new artistic idea is about how hard it is to come up with a new artistic idea, it's bound to create some mixed feelings.
Overall Impression — 7
With the fundamental idea for "Glass Boys" being an appeal to music that's starker than what FU has made before, the feelings the album generates are very complicated. The band's self-reflection is put front-and-center for the listener to experience, but what is the right way to interpret it? Should FU be as concerned as they are about the results of the previous albums they've recorded when those results have been monumental? How much should "Glass Boys" be lauded for taking a simpler route when we know how capable FU is at pulling off elaborate compositions? Is this attempt to create an album that acts as a foil to the elaborate compositions of "The Chemistry of Common Life" and "David Comes to Life" serve as proper salvation for FU? And most importantly, how happy should everyone be for an album that displays the general unhappiness and uncertainty FU is feeling as a band? Maybe all that FU wants from the listener is to simply rock out to "Glass Boys," but with their existential crisis as a band being the exclusive focus on the album, it's hard to simply rock out to without being affected by the music's pensiveness - and this integral paradox of the album treads a fine line between being profound and ouroboros.