Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: One Day is a tight record. It’s Fucked Up’s shortest full-length to date, a significant milestone for a band that has made the occasional compact statement but is mostly known for continuously expanding its horizons. Though they’ve kept busy in the past few years – embracing bold concepts and elaborate theatrics on 2021’s Year of the Horse before scaling things back with last year’s Oberon EP – enough time has passed since their last proper LP, 2018’s Does Your Dreams, to make you wonder where this group’s ambitions now lie. Fucked Up’s original claim to fame was revitalizing hardcore, and now that a new crop of bands has blown the genre open in a few different directions, what’s the next move going to be? Would they push for another conceptual double album or take a back-to-basics approach as a reminder of their roots? Given that one of their recent releases was a reissue of early recordings, you’d think they might lean toward the latter.
But Fucked Up aren’t the sort of band to take the obvious route, so they’ve come up with a different experiment. The title of One Day is quite literal: When it came to writing and recording the album, vocalist Damian Abraham, guitarist Mike Haliechuk, bassist Sandy Miranda, and drummer Jonah Falco confined themselves to a 24-hour timeframe. Haliechuk laid the groundwork across three sessions spanning eight hours each, and the rest of the band had to complete their parts remotely while sticking to the one-day rule. When your music is defined not by a particular sound but by its lack of boundaries, why not see what happens when you try setting a serious one? That they’ve managed to pull it off is a feat in itself, though the real thrill isn’t so much how it streamlines their sound (which still comes off as dense and layered as ever), but the perspective it ended up forcing upon the lyrics, a kind of seize-the-day attitude that raises the stakes and induces added urgency without feeling manufactured.
When there’s looking back, it’s to confront hard truths and spill them out. Most of One Day is searingly personal, but opener ‘Found’ begins by adopting a lens of collective responsibility to address Canada’s history of colonization: “I stood on the shore of a story we don’t tell anymore/ All the names were erased/ Buried under a land that my people stole.” Though Abraham contributed lyrics for the first time since 2014’s Glass Boys – he and Haliechuk wrote five songs each – a lot of the sentiments clearly overlap. Take the Abraham-penned ‘Lords of Kensington’, which similarly grapples with the consequences of a shared past lived in negligence: “When you crack the façade, you can see the truth/ We lived out lives like they were only ours to lose.”
Abraham applies the same nervy intensity as the framing narrows and widens again, his bellowing voice often accompanied by softly anthemic backing vocals that accentuate the sheer joyousness it can sometimes disguise. On highlight ‘Huge New Her’, they’re not even needed: incendiary guitars pierce through a pummeling rhythm section like rays from the sky, bright enough to sell a line about “the Delphi in yourself.” It fits right alongside the glam-rock strut of ‘I Think I Might Be Weird’, a curiously titled tale of enduring stormy seas that serves as an interesting contrast to ‘Found’. Some stories on One Day are a little less allegorical, and naturally, the band often has to sacrifice nuance for directness. But that doesn’t mean they abandon their maximalist tendencies, allowing themselves to at least stretch most of the songs past the 3-minute mark or belt the chorus out one extra time to hammer the point home.
Impressively, the conclusions they arrive at on One Day are a little more resonant than you’d expect given the self-imposed restrictions. ‘Broken Little Boys’ might seem like it’s recycling the same ideas about taking accountability, until the song takes a clever turn: “God was corrupt and the whole world is fucked/ And a question’s struck/ Is God a broken boy?/ God’s just a broken little boy!” It’s pretty silly, sure, but it’s the sort of irreverent punchline that would have otherwise probably been tossed away in favour of either simplicity or sophistication, and it’s fun to hear them run with it. That’s not where the profundity lies, though: Fucked Up are wise to end the album with a trio of heartfelt songs about loss and love, the things you want to remember and hold on to when time seems to be running out. “At the end of all history let just one thing be left of me,” Abraham pleads on the title track. “What could you do in just one day?/ Fall in love, spend your time away.” Haliechuk wrote those lyrics, but it’s no wonder Abraham echoes them in the album’s final line: “In the end, that’s all we need.”