Glass Boys is an album by Fucked Up. There are massive, suffocating riffs pounded out by a triple threat of guitar players. Vocalist Damian Abraham barks his way through song after song with his usual might. The lyrics are ponderous, flowery, and shamelessly on-the-nose. Hell, even the album cover layout continues a tradition established with the band’s debut record, 2006’s Hidden World.
For an album largely concerned with the hardcore veterans’ place in such a youthful scene, it’s almost appropriate how Glass Boys fails to redefine the band’s sound in any way. Then again, Fucked Up made their name as fearless innovators unafraid of such decidedly un-punk concepts like rock operas or 20-minute songs inspired by the Chinese zodiac, so the lack of change is inevitably disappointing.
The immediate standouts are sequenced one after another: “Sun Glass” leaps into action with an infectious blend of sugary vocal harmonies, entrancing chord progressions and raw attitude. As indistinguishable as Abraham’s vocals tend to be, the declarative mantra “Sacred young! Feel the sun! Vermillion! Avert your gaze! Be afraid! Can’t look away!” is impossible to deny. “The Art of Patrons” continues the band’s anthemic, all-major-chords-all-the-time methodology with an unholy stomp anchored by the endless repetition of “It’s the privilege! Of mass delusion!” Indeed, this coda competes with the refrain of “Sun Glass” for the most memorable moment on Glass Boys.
Other than these tracks — and the band’s occasional refreshing lapse into waltz rhythms — I can’t recall anything especially impressive on this record. There are no outright bad tracks, but the songs tend to blur together far too often to make a truly righteous impact. There are moments where Glass Boys comes so close to being labeled a return to form following the bloated grandeur of 2011’s David Comes to Life, but a lack of memorable tunes robs the record from earning its place next to the 2009 Polaris Music Prize-winner The Chemistry of Common Life.
But even if Fucked Up fail to deliver on the initial promise of shorter track lengths and a more focused sound, attentive fans will find themselves lucky enough to have two versions of the album to compare and contrast. There’s a “slow version” wherein Jonah Falco’s multi-tracked drums are replaced with simpler, half-time rhythms, and it’s a real revelation. Fucked Up’s abrasive punk approach softens into a strangely beautiful, heretofore unseen brand of what can only be called hardcore shoegaze. While the ideal track listing of Glass Boys would combine both versions in some way, I highly recommend you check out the “slow version” if you find yourself tiring of the regular album.
At the end of the day, Glass Boys is worth a listen, but it certainly won’t challenge or provoke listeners any more than the band’s other records. Not every group can redefine their sound over time.
Rating: 3 stars for the regular version, 4 stars for the “slow version”
Nick Porcaro is a 24-year old graphic designer, musician and writer based in Jersey City, NJ. Nick graduated in 2012 from UArts in Philadelphia, PA with a BFA in Graphic Design. As a musician he’s played guitar for over 10 years, in addition to dabbling in bass, drums and vocals. Nick currently plays rhythm guitar with Max Feinstein and has worked with Matt Scuteri, Sara Martin, Shakedown Inc., and The Nerd Who Ate St. Louis. When he’s not freelancing for the Wilma Theater, Nick is writing songs for his debut solo record.