Is it breaking the rules to include a retrospective of B-sides and rarities in our review of January’s best albums? Maybe it is, but while Fucked Up’s Couple Tracks may lack the novelty of a new release, the vigour and urgency of this compilation make all the past month’s releases look wishy-washy by comparison – even a little bit pathetic. If you already own the band’s award winning album The Chemistry of Common Life (which Drowned In Sound described as “the last decade’s foray into hardcore for the non-hardcore kid”), Couple Tracks provides the means to blast away those winter cobwebs regardless of the labels you might assign to yourself.
The album sprawls over two discs, ostensibly to divide the ‘hard stuff’ from the ‘fun stuff’. I’d say this was a misleading differentiation – the first twelve tracks are by no means straight faced while the next thirteen shouldn’t deter lovers of ‘real’ punk. In fact I think it reveals the bands unique merit when after the first listen to Couple Tracks these two categories look completely arbitrary. Fucked Up’s lasting appeal in a genre much older than many of us is their ability to keep it’s true spirit alive (debut single and opening track No Pasaran is a testament to this) only to seamlessly return their tongues to their cheeks when it all gets a little too clichéd.
Couple Tracks charts the band’s development since 2002, including songs you might not have heard from their extremely prolific repertoire and alternate versions of more popular tracks. If you’re new to Fucked Up, the album provides a comprehensive overview of the Canadian sextet’s rise to near-mainstream success (hindered, no doubt, by that post-watershed moniker).
Lead singer Damian ‘Pink Eyes’ Abraham has said “People can hate your band or people can love your band. You just don’t want them to be able to ignore your band.” Couple Tracks shows how with Abraham’s snarling, testosterone fuelled vocals, driving percussion and the occasional melodic guitar hook, Toronto’s angry teenagers have grown up to become a hardcore band with a difference.