Fucked Up: 4 July 2009 - Paris

Photo: David Waldman

Is this the shape of punk to come?

Fucked Up

Fucked Up

City: Paris
Venue: Nouveau Casino
Date: 2009-07-04

I have a confession to make. While I often listened to hardcore in high school in the presence of friends, I didn't own more than a few Black Flag and Suicidal Tendencies tapes (though plenty of Dead Kennedys, but their entire output is not hardcore, despite the usual categorization). So when a friend told me I had to see the Fucked Up show in Paris, I was a bit suspicious. But I trust his instincts, and I went. Thus, the following review is from someone who heard them for the first time at this concert. I liked them so much that I bought a CD of their singles collection and a T-shirt emblazoned with a quote by Tom Jones.

On the way to the show I wondered who the hell was going to be there. I rarely see any semblance of punk in Paris, and in the few bars where you can find those signs, there's no guarantee that such people will all be at a show that costs 15 Euros. I was a bit surprised then, maybe even refreshed, to find a mostly very non-punk-looking audience of about fifty people. This was the first of many expectations that were pleasantly shattered at this concert.

If you are sick of the commoditized aesthetic uniformity of how certain music genres are visualized in public -- the long hair or the short dyed hair, the baggy pants and baseball caps or the tight trousers and fedoras, the tattoos and piercings -- you will find Fucked Up refreshingly provocative in their confident, well, plainness. Of the three guitar players, two were so clean-cut they could move from the punk club to the country club without anyone detecting anything. The drummer was wearing a black sleeveless "We Gotta Know" T-shirt, and the bespectacled nerdy female bassist was decked out in a blue sleeveless vintage dress -- no tattoos or piercings were at all visible. That is, of course, until your eyes turn to lead singer Damian (or Pink Eyes -- they all use pseudonyms), who showed up in tracksuit pants and a T-shirt that was quickly thrown aside.

While the rest of band may fail to make an impression, front man Damian is unforgettable. He is a big man. Not overly tall, perhaps 5'11'', but boasting remarkable girth, and sporting a couple of tattoos, one being the band's logo. A couple of songs into the set, his antics -- mad pacing, jumping about, screaming until his veins pop right out of his neck -- produced an abundance of body coolant, covering the crowd in his sweat. Later, after un-shirting himself, he took empty plastic beer cups and smashed them on his forehead and his belly so that they stuck like suction cups. They would last a couple of songs before he bounded off the stage in search of more, usually on the floor but also on the three or four side tables of the room. But it was still too hot for Damian, so he stripped down into his Fruit of the Looms, a good faded black, in which he remained for the rest of the show.

Musically, Fucked Up are loud. And yes, they do have a hardcore streak. But it’s the vocals that are the most hardcore aspect. Charismatic lead singer Damian seemingly has a lot to scream about, but I can't say I understood most of what he was howling about. I gathered it was about the virus of complacency and the courage to take a stand. I'm down with that. When you step back from Damian's Henry Rollins’ yowl and start thinking about the instruments and sound, the band’s music does have some steady punk drumming to it, but the layers of (three) guitars, bass, and drums conspire in ways that often sounded more like complicated ‘90s indie rock. The song’s time signatures and lengths have little in common with hardcore's strict one to two minute blasts.

Reading about them before writing this review, I learned that this is a band that has always provoked critics and audiences, from album sleeve art, to lyrics, and sound. Perhaps their ultimate musical statement was on 2008's Year of the Pig, where they featured an 18-minute long song. Several of their songs take time to build, have lengthy interludes, and rounds of choruses. Towards the end of the show I found myself bopping to "Crusades", with its catchy chorus (like several other of their songs) that lends itself to audience collaboration -- the microphone is repeatedly pointed at us -- and its melodic driving guitar arrangement that left me thinking of the fabulous climax of Superchunk's "The First Part". It is aggressive, yet the sharp vocal edge is sometimes blunted. The whole thing is very loud -- the club's sound guys asked them to turn down their amps three times and forbade them an encore.

Their hardcore cred reared its head during their last number, a cover of Black Flag's "Nervous Breakdown". Not only did they cover it, they let a fan come on stage to sing/growl it, apparently because he had shown the band his breastplate tattoo of the same title. He lasted about thirty seconds before losing his way and Damian saved him. This is just one instance of what could be stressed as Fucked Up's radical democratic ethos, talking with the audience between songs and inviting them to participate in the vocals. I wondered if they often invite audience members to play the instruments too. They stopped just short of that at this show.

Is this the shape of punk to come? On the one hand, shows I saw in the week prior to this Fucked Up performance made me wonder if something is culturally afoot in alterna/independent music culture. In the mid-‘70s, punk rebelled against the elite virtuosity of the artist on stage who was significantly distanced from the adoring audience. The idea was, as the punk 'zines said, anyone can do this. Go start a band. Singers would engage in spitting contests with the audience, and would bound into the crowd and dance with them, sometimes getting the shit beat out of them in the process. Shoegaze and other forms of indie rock, to say nothing of post-rock, rebuilt that barrier between performer and audience member.

But during all three shows I saw within seven days -- The Fleshtones, King Khan and the Shrines, and Fucked Up -- a different, more interactive relationship with the audience was manifest, albeit in different ways. The Fleshtones were ironic about their feigned arrogance. They leapt into the audience and challenged their dance moves. King Khan flipped off the audience (and they him in kind), squirted beer on them, and ran out and danced with them, but it was playfully sincere. Fucked Up's Damian also broke down the audience/performer barrier, handing them the microphone, giving them hugs, even French kissing one guy. There is something punkishly revivalist about it all.





A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.