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Fucked Up, ‘The Chemistry of Common Life’ (Matador)

Bands have been looking for what comes after hardcore punk for decades. Solutions have included visits to the local tavern (the Replacements), Neil Young blowouts (Dinosaur Jr.), and metal (too many to name). The sick joke is that the genre now thrives on a fidelity to the past that rivals Civil War reenactments. File-sharing has made it easier than ever for bands to evoke the glory days of Japanese grindcore, crusty Finnish thrash, or Reagan-era Hermosa Beach slam.

Fucked Up brilliantly stalk the DMZ between devotion and progression. Band name that might negate big-box-store retail? Check. Vocals reminiscent of pack-a-day screamers from Negative Approach to Poison Idea? Check. Seemingly pointless, yet somewhat intriguing instrumentals? Check. Smart yet unintelligible lyrics? Check. Flute? Um, what?

Like their debut album, Hidden World, Chemistry thrives on a thrilling alchemy of trad hardcore thunder and proggy flourishes. Damian “Pink Eyes” Abraham’s broken-glass bellow is often matched with folk-siren backup vocals that disorient more than they soothe. Multi-tracks thicken and slur the guitar riffs, heightening both tension and complexity. “No Epiphany” and “Son the Father” rage at faith while wishing for it, a theme that dominates. Being humanists, they refuse to believe that only God can judge them. Even so, Fucked Up are far more than just a minor threat.