Toronto punk rockers PUP are back with their second full-length album. The title, The Dream Is Over, is apparently a jab at vocalist-guitarist Stefan Babcock’s doctor. After incessant touring following their 2014 self-titled debut, Babcock’s vocal cords were shredded. His doctor informed him that the dream was, in fact, over. Instead of calling it quits, the group defiantly pushed forward, bringing forth a sophomore album full of dark wit and in your face punk rock.
The record opens with a gradual ascension into chaos as “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will” asserts a severe and earnest sentiment towards life on the road. From there, it’s a non-stop parade of heavy guitars, aggressive drums, yelled gang-vocals, and self-loathing. The riffs are satisfyingly catchy, suggesting a pop inflection on their unapologetic edginess. The album possesses a drunken swagger and laments life’s many failed relationships and endeavors. The Dream Is Over feels like the youthful melancholy of The Front Bottoms combined with the deep heaviness of Manchester Orchestra, all wrapped in the relentlessness of ska-punk.
Babcock isn’t afraid to expose and investigate his insecurities, and pairs his words with an equally emotionally strained vocal delivery. On lead single “DVP,” he humorously details the inability, or possibly unwillingness, to grow up. “Old Wounds” is an abrasive rocker focused on scathing introspection, while “Can’t Win” is a charged-up anthem of surrender. The title alone of the track “My Life Is Over and I Couldn’t Be Happier” perfectly encapsulates PUP’s ability to take the prospect of devastation and demise, and repurpose it as fuel for their own self-deprecating flame.
The catharsis that I’m sure each member (especially Babcock) experienced in making this record is felt in every note and every word. PUP’s bombastic energy is focused, channeled into an album of both despair and repair. Contrary to doctor’s orders, The Dream Is Over showcases a band clearly hitting their stride.