Fucked Up Rank Their 5 Best Songs
Jonah Falco on the early deep cuts and recent highlights that make up his personal favourites
Published Jan 31, 2023Fucked Up have spent more than 20 years exploring the nooks, crannies and towering peaks of hardcore. Loud guitars? Check. Punishing, guttural screams? Check. Flute solos and prog suites inspired by the Chinese Zodiac? Check and check.
Seemingly nothing is off-limits for the long-running Toronto band — who, for their latest album, had each member write and record their parts within 24 hours' worth of sessions, hence the title One Day.
"The goal seemed to be to reintroduce some urgency and spontaneity into the songwriting process," drummer Jonah Falco tells Exclaim! "Things which we used to do out of necessity — stretching our dollar by spending short, concentrated time in the studio — could have a second life as a creative gesture of career-earned skill and intuition."
To celebrate the release of One Day, we asked the band to rank their best five songs from throughout their exploratory career. Falco responded with a list that's as eclectic as the band's catalogue, spanning from their debut album to their most recent one, including a rare 7-inch cut and the title track from one of their best-loved LPs. Falco also highlights the moment from One Day that he "calls back to a genuine and pure idea of what Fucked Up felt like in the early days."
Read Falco's picks below, and check out past editions of Exclaim!'s High 5 column here.
5. "Dance of Death"
"Dance of Death" (2003)
We wrote this song in our charming but hovel-like hourly practice space on Geary Avenue called Cactus Studios. Depending on which room you got, the quality of the amplifiers widely varied, and I think this writing practice was one of the times we had a "good" amp (a.k.a. one with nice-sounding and loud distortion). This usually led to more productive and enthusiastic practices than if we had got a dud. As we were showed the song and fleshed out the parts, I remember thinking that no one in their right mind would accept a song that "sounded like AC/DC" coming from a band called Fucked Up that previously was mostly writing songs that sounded like a Negative Approach live bootleg, but was excited to have it in our quiver.
When it was recorded, it felt like hearing the song for the first time. We dropped all sorts of small production notes into it — the lead from "Circling the Drain" in a connective section, handclaps, melodic backing vocals, and even a drum "solo." Upon playback, it just instantly became larger than life. This is still one of my favourite Fucked Up songs, if not my favourite. It's joyous sounding and well-played with a cynical twist and the skeleton of some of the ways that we'd take on to make music in the future.
4. "Jacob's Ladder"
Hidden World (2006)
This is a song that I think Mike originally showed me while we were hanging out in his bedroom on Roxton Road. He'd had the main riff for a while already. I brought my guitar over and we played through the riffs kind of quietly and solidified the structure of the song. This seems like such an unlikely and fossilized way of making music for FU, but it had a really long journey from bedroom to LP closer. It's full of evil gestures and musical ambition, including a bridge that borders on sounding like black metal. This was probably one of the more complicated songs we'd written to date, and as a listener, it takes you on the longest journey from the darkest hour to dawn.
3. "The Chemistry of Common Life"
The Chemistry of Common Life (2008)
This song is such a joy to listen to — it's just such a beaming and nourishing success of all our ambition at the time. Heavy songs filled with texture, melody and long-arcing musical ideas, which were perfectly suited to let their complexity complement Damian's vocals so naturally. There would be no other way this song could have been sung or played that would have done these riffs justice. It also somewhat marks the end of our brief love affair with minor chords as tools to darken the mood of songs. Minor chords from David Comes to Life onward usually get used as passing notes to contextualize the sweeter sounding bigger picture of our melodic material. This song sounds like the lyrics: the completion of a universe.
2. "Warm Change"
Glass Boys (2014)
Selfishly, I love this song because of the drums. On the surface the song starts in what vaguely resembles a shuffle, although i'm counting it as a fast 3/4 time signature with the emphasis on beat two instead of beat one. The bass seeps in to take the listeners attention away from the timing, then the guitars come in to cloud the listeners judgement again, all until the first strained screams of the verse in which the clear lockstep machinery of this powerhouse song lands very hard and sends it into the musical stratosphere.
We played this song live for a few tours, and while it was likely more of a spectacle than a rocker for the set, playing it felt so satisfying, as though we were living up to our potential as players on stage. This is one of those songs that felt as good to write, record and perform as it does to listen back to. The closing solo on this song had the delay printed on to it live by the Glass Boys engineer, Bill Skibbe, who listened so intently while he finessed the dials on an old rack delay. Eventually that proved too difficult to maintain and we just wrote in some automation in ProTools to finalize it, but sometimes it's the journey not the destination that counts.
One Day (2023)
I'm not sure this is the "best" song on One Day or if I can definitely say it's my favourite, but it does have something in common with all of these other songs: it has narrative strength and it feels connected to our earliest ambitions as "better" songwriters than our basic punk instincts had previously allowed us. This song sounds like "Kids of the Black Hole" by the Adolescents to me, which, in my own personal history of Fucked Up, serves as a songwriting cipher and high mark of ambition in our formative years.
Considering the methods of making One Day, this song also has (for me adding drums to an already complete song) the unique position of being created strictly from a point of listening. In all of these other instances, even when we wrote songs in the studio like we did during Dose Your Dreams, songs were created as an extension of ideas that moved between all of us simultaneously. The completion of a song like "Roar" comes from a place of listening and projecting meaning back on to it. It's deceptive in both its density and its simplicity, and, for me, calls back to a genuine and pure idea of what Fucked Up felt like in the early days.