Fucked Up specialise in ideas that really shouldn’t work. Their latest album is a fake compilation of imaginary ‘77 UK bands from a fictional town. They really capture the loose garagey fuzz and snotty drive of a lot of the peripheral bands of that time that never quite broke through into the mainstream when they could and now are generally only remembered for a song or two that crops up on real versions of this sort of compilation, or because the band members went on to other more prestigious endeavours.
The era that they’ve imitated so perfectly is that odd point where suburban bands were blasting out numbers in every dingy basement on every dingy street that didn’t always fit the standard punk rock template we think of now because the definite notions and conventions of a punk song hadn’t really been properly codified yet, so there’s invention born out of both a desire to just play what sounds cool, and also out of an inability to imitate Pretty Vacant or Janie Jones perfectly and you get a lot of slightly weird, off-kilter stuff that prefigures the later more deliberate sonic explorations of more obviously post-punk (and later indie-rock) bands. And Fucked Up have made an album that really sucks all those sounds together, just as they’re simultaneously coming together as a definite scene and breaking apart as a cohesive genre. It’s kind of amazing.
Of course the strengths of the album are also its weaknesses. The sort of compilations that it's aping will always feature a combination of really great stuff and things you just couldn't give a shit about. I love the pub-rock stomp lifting into the happy wailing of pop-punk of the opening track here. I like the fuzzy Unrequited Love which starts off like it was made by a bunch of people too enamoured with 60s music of girl groups and psychedelia to commit to a simple punk song, but so full of the exuberance of the time they can't help but make something that also works as well in this punk rock setting as any song off Damned, Damned, Damned. I can't stop listening to Do You Feed (The Curry Song) which somehow grasps the oddly important position that curry takes in the British national psych as a crossroads of culinary machismo and a wholehearted embrace of the benefits of multiculturalism (in the same way that the Goodness Gracious Me 'Going for an English' sketch does where a drunken Indian boldly announces to the catcalls of his friends "I'll have the blandest thing on the menu!") and then makes a really great punk song out of it that comes the closest of any on the album to that retroactively applied notion of the typical '77 sound. In contrast, I found that the closing track It's Hard to Be a Dad was far too twee for me, but the appeal of this album is its diversity and the excitement of the first listen is going through the different styles and finding out its surprises for yourself.