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Reviews: Fucked Up Presents David's Town

Fucked Up Presents David's Town

If there’s one undeniable fact about Matador Records’ hardcore punk outlier Fucked Up, it’s that they do not lack material. While the upcoming David Comes to Town is only their third official full-length, there’s no shortage of loose ends to track down: a towering stack of singles, their zodiac series of EPs, a debt-reducing 2LP singles compilation Couple Tracks, the Coke Sucks Drink Pepsi live album pressed with Chunklet’s endlessly quotable Indie Cred Test book, etc. I both pity and envy any souls brave enough to attempt to collect them all.

Until now I’ve stuck with the “major” titles in Fucked Up’s discography, but David’s Town was too intriguing to pass up. A tie-in release for the concept album David Comes to Town, David’s Town is tagged as a compilation of bands from Byrdesdale Spa, England, from the late ’70s. Spoiler alert: it’s actually Fucked Up channeling bands from the era with a smattering of guest vocalists. If you’re expecting progressive-leaning hardcore, wait for David Comes to Town; if you’re up for a loose romp through Brit-pop, early punk, and pub rock, by all means, come on in.

The fun of David’s Town comes from figuring out which songs evoke which bands. I won’t spoil that for you, since knowing all of what to expect from David’s Town lessens its impact (and I’ll likely be off anyway), but highlights include Grain’s “Light Rain,” which is dead-on Fleetwood Mac pantomime with Simone Schmidt donning Stevie Nicks’ gypsy wardrobe, the charging Brit-punk of Hateful Coil’s “Bull Thunder,” the girl-group perkiness of Redstockings’ “Unrequited Love,” the insistent melodies of In Good Company’s “Harmony’s Double” (guest vocals from A.C. Newman), and the goofy charm of Wonderer’s “It’s Hard to Be a Dad” (with Cloud Nothings’ Dylan Baldi). Like any compilation, real or fake, there are both hits and misses. Be prepared to stand by your turntable and move the needle past a few of the less inspired tracks after your first spin.

I won’t claim that David’s Town is essential listening. This sort of record is always in danger of being more fun for the band to record than for the fans to hear, and there are certainly a few points when that’s the case on David’s Town. What I will claim is that it’s a perfect Record Store Day release. It’s an entirely optional lark for fans and a chance for the band to continue stretching out their wings. I’d much rather bands do something like David’s Town for RSD than repress one of their albums on a previously unavailable color of vinyl or in double ten-inch form. David’s Town is a reward for fans, not an obligation, and that’s an essential distinction.

If you missed out on grabbing a physical copy, don’t lose sleep or your kid’s college fund acquiring a copy on eBay: a download of this album will be included in the massive pre-order package for David Comes to Town (along with four seven-inches, five non-album tracks, and a gallon zip-lock bag full of Pink Eyes’ body hair).

The Haul: Fucked Up, The Smiths, and Obits

It’s not the mammoth Record Store Day purchase that unnerves me with regard to my purchasing control, since I’d budgeted that one. It’s the return trip to Newbury Comics to pick up a few of the stragglers that had grown on me since the big event that makes me worry about whether this meme is a document of an uncontrollable addiction. I’d only planned to pick up the Fucked Up EP and the Obits LP, but finding that Smiths single suckered me into another buy. Just one more hit!

64. Fucked Up – Year of the Pig – Matador, 2008 – $10

Fucked Up's Year of the Pig

I doubt I’d given Fucked Up more than a dismissive skim before heading out to Seattle in March to interview the members of Juno. Both Arlie Carstens and Gabe Carter raved about the group (I can’t remember if Jason Guyer or Greg Ferguson did, so I’ll have to consult the tape), which prompted Jon to pick up a CD copy of their 2006 album Hidden World at Jive Time Records (from a former member of the band, no less). Damian Abraham’s (Pink Eyes) vocals immediately turned me off, all gruff shouting without enough melody, and I assumed that they weren’t for me. That is, of course, until I found out they had an eighteen-minute-long song.

“Year of the Pig” is a loose, pulsing epic, switching between soothing female vocals and Abraham’s guttural incantations. Piano, strings, and bongos all make appearances, but the song keeps pushing forward, even when it’s coming apart at the seams. Matador has released three different single edits for the song, which could sound like drastically different songs depending on the tempo for that four-minute chunk, but I’d rather stick with the eighteen-minute version. The flip is “The Black Hats,” a more traditional, guitar-heavy punk rock song.

I’ve since gotten into their 2008 LP The Chemistry of Common Life, or at least “Son the Father,” “Black Albino Bones,” and the title track. I was about to buy it at Newbury Comics when I’d noticed that it had jumped from $17.99 to $27.99. I’m sure I’ll pick it up sometime this year, but not at that price.

65. The Smiths – “The Headmaster Ritual” b/w “Oscillate Wildly” – Sire, 2009 – $7

The Smiths' The Headmaster Ritual single

Call me a sucker for limited edition wares, but when I found this Record Store Day exclusive a few weeks after the big event, I quickly snapped it up. This single sold out at the Newbury Street location I visited on Record Store Day within the first ten minutes, so I’m a bit amazed that copies were floating around. This Newbury Comics location also had a few extra copies of the Pavement live LP, so either demand wasn’t as high as anticipated, particular locations had some additional stock after the event, or the “exclusive” and “limited edition” tags were designed purely to sucker me in to buying a reissue single I don’t need. Score one up for the record industry.

Perhaps the more astonishing aspect of this single is that even at seven dollars, it’s still cheaper than the other Smiths reissue singles currently available. Those sell for a whopping $11 apiece and I don’t think they were even pressed on 100% celibate vinyl. You could buy a box set of all twelve of those singles, not including this one, for around $100 (a steal!), but for the same price you could purchase the majority of the singles/best-of compilations the Smiths issued during or after their existence (Hatful of Hollow, Louder than Bombs, The World Won’t Listen, Singles, etc.) on compact disc. Choose wisely.

66. Obits – I Blame You LP – Sub Pop, 2009 – $15

Obits' I Blame You

I blame The Night Marchers for the delay in my purchase of Obits’ debut full-length. The Night Marchers, helmed by Rick Froberg’s former partner in post-hardcore crime, John Reis, stumbled out of the gate with See You in Magic. Even Reis’s charisma couldn’t make up for the fact that the album has at most three memorable tracks, one of which they didn’t play at their concert last May. An auspicious beginning for his post-Hot Snakes career. Despite my relative fondness for Obits’ first single (“One Cross Apiece” b/w “Put It in Writing”), I was poised to be underwhelmed by I Blame You and the lack of Froberg’s signature throat-shredding screams.

Without the serrated edge of Drive Like Jehu or Hot Snakes, the surf-rock informed interplay between Froberg and former Edsel frontman Sohrab Habibion doesn’t pack the same immediate impact of Froberg’s past work or the coolly melodic touch of Edsel, but I Blame You proved to be a grower, especially once I put the LP on the turntable. The key track is the cover of Kokomo Arnold’s blues classic “Milk Cow Blues,” which incorporates a downright nasty rhythm guitar riff midway through the song. Once “Milk Cow Blues” sunk its claws in, the opening track, “Widow of My Dreams” and a number of other excellent album tracks clicked as well, like Sohrab Habibion’s excellent vocal contribution on “Run.” Closer “Back and Forth” starts out with a great, low-key 60s pop feel before ratcheting the energy up for the chorus, and I’d love a few more songs with that flavor.