Evan Weiss is a prolific Chicago-based musician, songwriter and producer known for his work performing and recording as Into It. Over It., and well as the bands Their/They’re/There (featuring American Football and Owen’s Mike Kinsella) and punk act Pet Symmetry. You can follow Into It. Over It. on Twitter here.
I grew up in a weird time: the post-Gen X/pre-Millennial era which (I guess) you could brand Y2K. It was an uncertain decade for many people around me, in the wake of so much change. A warming sea of people my age were at best simply struggling to find themselves, to create an identity of self in an overheating VFW hall filled with an it’s-already-been-done-and-I-can-do-this-better-than-you attitude. Apathy can breed a collective sense of defeat, which might be why the early-to-mid 2000’s were an entire era of commercially successful but flat-out, watered-down, bland bullshit. No substance. No passion. Nothing new. There, I fucking said it.
The things that I remained involved in — mainly, the hardcore/punk/underground ethos — got pushed even deeper into the basement, and had been polarized for a long time. What was selling records was no longer scary and/or unpredictable, but instead was filled with machismo and/or a lack of originality.
Enter: Fucked Up.
Fucked Up was everything I was after: unconventional, interesting, not giving what seemed like a single fuck about anything but performing like a well-oiled machine. And finally, a band with a fucking sense of humor. Something about hardcore felt fearless again. A small but impressive collection of their seven-inches started forming by my record player, and I played my copy of their 2006 debut Hidden World until the grooves wore out.
Fast forward about a decade, and here I am writing about Glass Boys, the band’s newest album and fourth overall (not counting 2004’s singles comp Epics in Minutes). Before I even start listening to the album, I notice a significantly shorter running time than on the last couple of FU releases. Part of me rejoices. I am a huge proponent of the cut-the-shit mentality, and have yearned for a ripping Fucked Up record since their 78-minute 2011 rock opera David Comes to Life (which I also loved).
And then I put it on. Fuckin’ Christ, this record does in fact rip.
The album rolls out with “Echo Boomer,” plunking away on a toy piano riff that pops up again and again in various stages of the album. Cannon-like drums (reminiscent of the Beastie Boys’ and some of my other favorite drum sounds) kick in and it begins. This fades into “Touch Stone,” which is where the majority of the record sits, inhabiting an awesome intersection between a heavier Sebadoh (Jason Loewenstein’s songs, not Lou Barlow’s), an upbeat SST-era Dinosaur Jr. and a screamy Replacements, or… no, no, no, fuck that.
I hate when writers compare bands. This is like nothing I have ever heard from anyone else.
By the time “Sun Glass” pops on, I am smiling ear to ear and humming along. The further I go, the more I’m fascinated by how simultaneously angry and joyous this record is. “The Art of Patrons” is like a glorious nod to AC/DC, only with two drummers and minus Bon Scott giving me a headache. The effect of the dual drummers plays out in my headphones multiple times over the course of the record; I haven’t seen the band live recently enough to know if this is something they perform, but I sure hope so. The hard left/right panning of the two drum kits keeps me engaged during some of the more droning moments that would otherwise simply punish a listener into submission. “Warm Change” is a great example of this.
It’s at this point that I can hear where they had the vinyl release in mind — I’m listening to MP3s, only imagining what it will be like to flip the record five songs in — they chose excellent songs to end side A (“Warm Change”) and start side B (“Paper the House”). “Paper the House” drops in, upbeat and anthemic — a fuzzed-out lead guitar and well-sung background vocals with a modern punk feel, but then “DET” throws me back to the ’90s for a moment with a spaced-out, almost sitar-style riff. It might be my least favorite song on the album, but tucked between the bangers “Paper the House” and “Led by Hand,” it will do little to turn me off.
I have set up three stereos (all with different speaker set-ups) in my apartment just so I can pick out everything going on in the mix. I listen on my headphones at tinnitus-inducing levels, but if I really want to hear the organ at the end of “Warm Change,” I have to use the set-up in my living room. This is the type of immersive listening experience I tend only to enjoy while listening to my I-just-hit-30-years-old-now-I’m-not-punk-anymore-check-out-my-Belle-and-Sebastian-records new releases, not from a hardcore band. In this era (you fucking millennials, I swear to God) I get pissed off thinking that most listeners won’t even bother to go that far, listening to shitty bit-rate Spotify copies of this record. It’s simply unfair.
Fucked Up saves the best for last. “The Great Divide” waltzes its way through one minute of 3/4 time before a crucial tempo/feel change that makes me want to jump off a flight of stairs. (In a good way. Imagine head-walking on your pets). Before I know it, the band is slowing back down to its ballroom three-step. This ebb and flow goes on for nearly four minutes, and it’s genius. It trails off into the closing, title track, a six-minute opus, the culmination of the entire work, and its tone, feel and words come full circle to where the album began. I get the feeling that this is either the first song they wrote for the album (the platform for the rest of the material) or the last (bringing everything together into one glorious track). After about three and half minutes of gut-wrenching introspection (singer Damian Abraham asking who he “used to be”), the song takes a veering left into a Who-like tempo change towards an interlude of positive self-reflection before diving back into the hook. Finally, a solitary (and slightly out of tune) Faith No More-esque piano carries out the album.
My only regret is that I didn’t have a copy of the lyrics to really push what these songs are about.
While some people may be confused by or even afraid of this band, Fucked Up offers me the comfort of knowing there are still fearless punks out there — not just fearless in their creativity, but in their message and intelligence, in their appreciation of honing a craft and furthermore, just being themselves, a giant middle finger to conventional rules in an otherwise mostly pigeonholed scene and community.
I get worried about growing up and what that means to being myself. Fucked Up helps me realize that I can have both, that I can have a clean home (specifically, a clean bathroom) and still be punk as fuck. That it’s OK to have the same core values at 30 that I did at 15. That rebellion doesn’t die with age, it just takes on a different form. That punk can be smarter than a palette of seven basic chords. That it can have more depth than just loud guitars and someone yelling. That it still has something important to say.