Fucked Up continues their series of releases for each year of the Chinese astrological cycle. With their third (in a possible series of twelve if they stick to the idea), the band finds themselves on the first in the ancient cycle, the rat. And like every release that bears their name, they prove that they are one of the most important and challenging bands around. While Year of the Rat has been hailed as “the loudest Fucked Up recording to date”, with the group employing techniques that merit comparisons to Hawkwind or Butthole Surfers, it certainly seems like it is the one that veers the furthest from any semblance of what was once considered hardcore punk.
Something else that has become synonymous with the Toronto group: the intense, atmospheric openings to their songs. It's put to great use on the title track of this two-song 12″ as almost two minutes of the song is dedicated to a slow build up — one quiet guitar becomes two guitars, ushering in a bit of piano twinkle, and a minute later the bass begins to kick in until finally at about a minute and a half the buzzsaw guitar and the rapid drums open the doors for Pink Eyes to begin spewing, spitting, and screaming over what sounds like an army of guitars jumping off a mountain into a lake of synthesizer effects. This goes on for about eleven minutes until the faint voice of Sen. John McCain on the campaign trail is heard saying “the Secretary of State told me once that you had better be ready to pull the trigger.” It's a haunting finale that encompasses the uneasy transitional year the world has faced. It's also a pretty fitting way to end a hardcore song.
Something somewhat different on the b-side, the song “First Born” begins reminiscent of “Dragonaut”, the opening track of the stoner-epic/all-time burnout classic by the band Sleep: Sleep's Holy Mountain. But while the aforementioned 1990s worshipers of Black Sabbath were singing about riding dragons towards crimson eyes and other pot-induced Tolkien-esque references, Pink Eyes uses the opportunity to create one of the most open and honest songs I have ever heard the band produce (which is saying a lot) as he screams of the joys and fears of becoming a father for the first time. It touches on the idea of the personal being the political – bringing a child into a world full of injustices that this band has been screaming about for close to a decade. And because it is a scary world, it's a world that needs a band like Fucked Up. If not for their own sake, for the sake of things to come.