New Threads – Denver’s Denver City Saltlicks and Josh Novak, Toronto’s Fucked Up
Fucked Up – David Comes to Life (2011)
Fucked Up’s latest offering is much less an album than a movie, really. Listening to it, it’s hard to avoid imagining complex, high-budget plots and huge swaths of dramatic interplay as the vignette of David – the everyperson – unfolds. The concept album’s story lends itself: angst-ridden boy meets girls amidst political upheaval in Northern Britain in the ‘80s, boy and girl plan a statement of protest involving a bomb, girl meets her untimely demise as a result of said bomb, and David is left to piece together redemption from the idealized memories and remains.
What is truly overwhelming about this album is the brilliance in which Fucked Up presents the story. The 18-song opus – in four acts (which is good an argument for getting the vinyl double as any, if you want to take in the story as it was meant to be seen/heard) swirls in music that’s as evident of The Who as it is of post-hardcore masters like Husker Du, with bits and pieces of bands like the Fall and Scratch Acid in the mix.
Damian “Pink Eyes” Abraham’s screamed lyrics – almost unintelligible at times (but at all the right times) – portray a perfect image of the constant plight of the everyman – cog within cog, in the landscape of as complex a machine as can be imagined, complete with a heavy weight of insignificance. Juxtaposed with the sweeping guitar compositions from Mike “10,000 Marbles” Haliechuk, Josh “Concentration Camp” Zucker, and Ben “Young Governor” Cook and guest vocalists like Cults’ Madeline Follin and Toronto singer-songwriter Jennifer Castles, the narrative works. Much like Husker Du’s classic “Zen Arcade” and The Who’s “Quadrophenia,” “David Comes to Life” sucks you in and makes you live the life it portrays.
The story starts with the delay-looped intro “Let Her Rest” that wraps quiet licks around your feet and up the body, and then plows into a constant anthem with “Queen of Hearts” that never really leaves. Each of these songs is chained to the next in the overall narrative, but they all exist just as well independently. Strong, catchier ones like “Turn the Season,” “Running On Nothing” and “The Recursive Girl” prove difficult to move past for days after the first few listens. Even less likely ones like “Ship of Fools” and “One More Night” are easy to get swept up in.
“David Comes to Life” is more than the sum of its parts, or merely the third album from the iconoclastic, intellectual provocation of Fucked Up. It may just be an inductor into the world of the rock opera for so many of us who seem to have forgotten the genre, replacing it with the short attention span of pop punk. Nice job, guys. We predict this one will last.
The Denver City Saltlicks – Denver City Saltlicks
Denver City Saltlicks (DCS) have been through the wringer over the past few years in terms of personnel. Still fronted by brother and sister team ‘Bama Slim and Cate Hate on shared (often spat) vocals, ukelele and they’ve settled on a lineup that rounds out with bassist GE Wilson and drums by UncleDray – and the trip has proven more than worth it.
This record, their first full length, owns the distinction of being the first in a while that immediately became a part of our daily soundtrack, with tunes that branded themselves on our tune-soaked brains. From the opening cackle that starts of “Rattlesnake Women” the tunes beg you to avoid bouncing and gyrating while you slip into old-timey forms of brainwash. Cate and ‘Bama’s plpay off of one another id alternately hilarious and brilliant – as when she quickly contradicts her brother’s hopes for a sleep over as “Boil That Cabbage Down” gets rocking. Equally enticing is their pairing for “Fuck Workin,” “Why’d You Take My Love” and the over-the-top fiery “Baby Jesus Wept.” ‘Bama pulls off a velvet, super-powered croon that’s unmatched – at least in Denver at the moment – in “…Dreams of You,” and plays a damned good spirit behind “Ghost of a Murdered Man.”
Besides their old-fashioned, jug-band-meets-surf sound, DCS portray the best of The Gun Club and some other solid punk roots on this disc. Well worth checking out – and they’re even better live.
Joshua Novak – Dead Letters
When we first caught Joshua Novak live a few years ago, our first, lasting impression was amazement with the skill he had in playing a right-handed guitar – backwards and upside down in the left handed format. He doesn’t bother to re-order the strings to make sense as most lefties do – Novak has learned to play all the chords upside down.
That amazing fact, though, was pretty quickly overshadowed by his threat to the throne of pop geniuses like John Lennon. Novak writes slid, beautiful pop tunes with solid, real hooks that are hard to resist, and his first album “Dead Letters” is full of them. He can across in the vein of a younger, more indy Billy Squire, like “The Love That I Want,” or somewhere between Lennon and his son Sean – with the slight pall of a poppier Radiohead, as in “New Start’ or “Shallow Dull Stars.”
It’s in masterpieces like the irresistible “Tidal Wave” and the slightly less sticky “Man of Me” that Novak’s pop talent is most evident, as is his only real weakness. If anything, sometimes his compositions delve into the too-sickly-sweet – as does “Somenights” and “Heart Hits the Wall.” Fortunately, the oversweet fades quickly, and we’re led back to some shrill pop soon enough.