The series of EPs that make up Fucked Up’s ongoing Zodiac project are some of the most interesting punk rock experiments around. That’s not to say they’re always good, or even enjoyable, but they inspire a sort of awe about them. There’s always something on the line, it’s audacious and beautiful and raucous and for me at least, every bit as important as their full length releases. Year of the Hare is Fucked Up’s latest experiment, and on it they continue pushing the boundaries of punk and hardcore into unknown territory.
The title track is one of their longest yet, clocking in at about twenty-one and a half minutes. It starts with feedback that could be strings and a piano that’s slightly out of tune, every so often a blast of static harshes the mellow, as if “Year of the Hare” was the pirate radio broadcast of an avant garde DJ . The song is all about building though. It introduces its elements and grows over time, exploding into the hardcore we all know and love before subtracting its elements again and retracting into silence. This all happens by the halfway mark. When the music comes back, it is a sort of ethereal indie rock led by melodic female vocals. Once again, the music builds, and as soon as it reaches a crescendo it falls apart in a detuned deconstruction, it all happens in an instance and it resurrects as a fast and melodic, typically Fucked Up barrage.
And then again. It stops. The broken piano comes back and suddenly the guitars rev up and vocalist Damian Abraham is screaming in my face. “Year of the Hare” is all about starts and stops, explosions and meditations. Its unhindered creativity, pushing itself as far as notes can take it.
“California Cold” is merely ten minutes long, and experiments in a different way. It is less about texture and structure than it is an excursion into new genre territory. There’s a certain heartland rock feel to the song that comes through despite Abraham’s growls. It has a more bluesy feel than a lot of Fucked Up’s work, while never completely losing the band’s cold and distinctive tone. It becomes a jam, an un-punk concept that Fucked Up has embraced and made sublime over the years, filled with feedback and synth and pulsing noise.
Fucked Up is a difficult band to assign anything of numeric value to. They are bizarre boundary pushers; rooted in punk rock but obsessed with dismantling it. They remind be of the musical equivalent of Jean-Luc Godard, the French New Wave director who loved American gangster films but whose perspective was so unique and unwavering and contemptuous of the rules of cinematic art, that whatever he utilized of that influence was transformed into something only recognizable as a Godard film. Fucked Up is similar in that regard. Year of the Hare is an interesting new installment in the Zodiac series, and it’s made all the better by its grandiose, albeit inaccessible vision.