I’ll admit to a slight bit of prejudice in regards to this album. Of course, the F-Ups had no way of knowing it, but “All the Young Dudes” is one of my all-time favorite rock songs. The fact that these kids had the wherewithal to cover this classic track is quite impressive. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but whenever a young group shows exquisite taste in the music of their forefathers, it always makes me want to look further, to see if maybe there’s something more beneath the surface.
Not that the surface is bad in this case. The four musicians who compose the F-Ups are just 18 years old, but they’ve already been playing together for five years. Its pretty damn amazing that they’ve been together that long, and from such a young age. They play with a precision and discipline that belies their youth, and speaks to a great many youthful pleasures deferred by the siren call of the practice session.
I’m hardly an elitist. I don’t listen to a lot of punk, and I honestly could not care less about all the different genre tags and scene distinctions that compose the punk world—makes about as much sense to me as the endless divisions of house music. At the end of the day, I just want to hear good music, and it doesn’t matter whether I’m listening to corporate pop-punk or indie gutter-punk or screamo or straight-edge or whatever. These kids are signed to a major label, and they definitely deserve the attention. They’ve got the chops to go far.
Which is not to say that this is a perfect album. Their songwriting is still basically what you’d expect from a roomful of eighteen-year-olds. They’ve got a song called “Crack Ho”, about a crack ho. They’ve got a song called “Lazy Generation”, about being part of a lazy generation. And of course, let us not forget “Screw You”, which features an infectious chorus of, ah, “screw you”, repeated over and over, ad infinitum. Most of these songs are kept aloft by sheer force of will, as the group plays with the kind of intensity that only a tight punk unit can muster.
But considering their peers, the songwriting on this album is no worse than anything you’d expect from Sum-41 or early Blink-182. It took Blink a full decade before they started writing songs that matched the depth of their technical prowess, and if you consider that fact, the F-Ups are off to a fabulous start. At this rate, I imagine they’ll have their own Sandanista in a decade’s time—or at least a Dookie.
Given the groups’ age, I imagine a great deal of the credit for this debut must go to the older folks who shepherded the recording process. The group was mentored by Brynn Arens, of Minnesota glam-punk outfit Flipp, and the production duties for this debut were handled by a team of hardened vets. Engineer Eric Olsen has worked for Mary Lou Lord and the Har Mar Superstar, while mixer Tom Lord-Alge has worked with the aforementioned Blink-182 and Sum-41, in addition to Fountains of Wayne, Less Than Jake, Weezer, and even Limp Bizkit. If these disparate groups have anything in common, it’s the glistening pop sheen that envelops their records like a bubblegum wrapper. The boys lucked out this time around, because The F-Ups is pretty much a perfect example of the state-of-the-art in hard pop technique circa 2004.
There’s a lot here to like, regardless of the occasionally puerile and simplistic lyrical content. The album’s most subtle track is probably the closing number, “No No No”. Just when you think you’ve got these guys figured out as an exuberantly competent punk outfit, they throw in a track that sounds like a sped-up motorpsycho roadhouse hoedown, complete with a greasy guitar solo freshly escaped from Ted Nugent’s fevered brain.
This is not perhaps the best album of the year, but I will not soon forget the F-Ups. If they’re not producing some truly amazing music in another 10 years time, I’ll be extremely disappointed.
// Notes from the Road
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