The F-Ups

The F-Ups

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On their self-titled Capitol Records debut, mohawked Minnesotans the F-Ups revel in youth rebellion, and are steeped in the visual and audio signifiers of punk rock. This is fine -- after all, it's fun to swear and smoke and be surly. But underneath its ragged guitars and gabba gabba heys, a cut like the quartet's "Crack Ho" is really a just a trailer-trash update of Tom Petty's "American Girl." Like Petty, the F-Ups recast little pieces of aggression and rock history into what's essentially sunny pop music. However, Petty's endearing cast of dreaming losers have become one-dimensional caricatures. They're apathetic "Lazy Generation" curs, full of cynicism and expecting a handout. They embrace the punk ethos, but only as a means to pop star success. And, unfortunately, the F-Ups do little on their debut to make listeners think they're not tagging along. "Screw You" and "Look at Your Son Now" -- based on Green Day and NOFX templates, respectively -- are also packed with luscious backup harmonies, layer upon impossible layer of roaring guitar, and atmospheric breakdowns. There are no string sections, but such a move wouldn't be surprising. Naturally, Tom Lord-Alge is on board F-Ups. He's the absolutely aces mixer whose past successes include Sum 41 and Fountains of Wayne. Lord-Alge and producer Brynn Arens artfully manage the F-Ups' punk influences -- Cali stuff here, a little Clash there, etc. -- as components in a larger pop package. "Glad That I Lost You" is an anti-ballad with rousing guitars at odds with its meticulously layered falsetto harmonies. And not only is the double-kick update of Mott the Hoople's "All the Young Dudes" way too obvious for a record this concerned with being rowdy, but it's a full-on studio concoction with none of the original's cocksure swagger. Entire choirs of youthful voices join in on the chorus, Mick Ralphs' lead guitar is ripped whole from the source, and F-Ups vocalist Travis Allen sounds phoned in over the relentless kick drum. He could be any of his peers, valiantly swaggering in the manner of Tim Armstrong, losing all individuality in the process. For all but regular attendees of suburban Minneapolis battle of the bands contests, this is the first time we're hearing the F-Ups. Problem is, we aren't really hearing them. Because their record uses punk influence only as a prop for its pop designs, it's difficult to believe in the rebellion they offer. It's an empty album, about as dangerous as an abbreviated swear word.

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