For Fans Of
In 2013, Canadian locals PUP released their self-titled début album, and the punk underground proceeded to crush it up, snort it and go through a collective shit-fit with nary a comedown in sight. As far as début releases go, ‘PUP’ was a revelation: jagged, brash punk songs in constant collision with stratospheric melodies; sometimes poppy, sometimes playful but always catchy guitar riffs; a plethora of call-and-response gang shouts, and the stellar vocal performance from hyper-kinetic frontman Stefan Babcock. Its crossover potential was undeniably huge, and the record received an emphatic and unwavering critical response from outfits like Rolling Stone, NME, Kerrang!, and more. Now given all of this build up, you’d probably think that their follow-up LP, the gloomily titled ‘The Dream Is Over’, would come with its own sense of reservation, on-set maturity and perhaps even an easing of the throttle? Well, you’d be completely wrong. Kind of… Let us explain.
The singular event that defines ‘The Dream Is Over’ is contained within the origin story of its title. After throwing their bodies around on tour for over two years – emptying their hearts, souls and lungs every night – a visit to the doctor during a tour gave their frontman some shitty news. His vocal chords were severely damaged, the prognosis was dire and as Babcock recollects, “When the doctor looked at them she literally was like, ‘I don’t know how to tell you this, but the dream is over.’” This moment effectively ground the momentum of the Toronto group to a halt, and forced the members of PUP to re-evaluate their lives. Coming out of that dark and turbulent period, we – the public – are now presented with ‘The Dream Is Over’: an album that stands proudly as a testament to the act of defiance; galvanised by the frustration, disappointment and exhilaration of wasted youth.
Essentially, PUP saw the responsible path ahead of them and responded with a resounding ‘fuck that’. ‘The Dream Is Over’ is positively over-flowing with existential angst, snarling bitterness and the same rambunctious energy that made their début record so captivating. Lead singles ‘If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, Then I Will’ and ‘DVP’ kick the record off, and showcase the group’s penchant for sharp lyrics and biting social commentary, focusing on everything from tour life to twenty-something relationship follies and drunk-dial mishaps. When the band shouts out, “Why can’t we all just get along?”, or Babcock divulges the line, “I don’t give a shit/I just don’t wanna die, and I don’t wanna live,” you can almost feel your own life choices reaching out to backhand you, imploring you to sing-along with fervent glee. Vicious melodies surface once again on this record, with ‘Doubts’ and ‘My Life Is Over and I Couldn’t Be Happier’ sporting some of the band’s catchiest material to date, backed by punchy drum fills and fuzzed-out riffs that wouldn’t be out of place on a Japandroids or DZ Deathrays record.
Slower moments like ‘The Coast’ and closer ‘Pine Point’ allow Babcock to turn his delivery to some truly heartbreaking accounts of small-town drudgery and Canadian life, detailing how the great winter ice thaw or abandoned mine shafts can mirror the indifference and implacable darkness of life’s gaping abyss. While ragers like ‘Can’t Win’, ‘Familiar Patterns’ and the blistering ‘Old Wounds’ – which sounds awfully like a track from fellow Canucks Single Mothers, and this reviewer could swear he heard Andrew Thomson’s harsh sneer drop in there at some point – keep the energy up and the listener strapped in for a dirty, wild ride. A quick Internet search for PUP will provide many conflicting results. As journalists are want to do (especially with music as a concern), there’s some gratuitous comparison going on, in trying to nail down the exact ‘thing’ that PUP have. Usage of hyperbole includes, but is not limited to: The Pixies, Dinosaur Jnr., The Replacements, Drive Like Jehu, Modern Baseball, The Bronx, Titus Andronicus, The Menzingers, Minor Threat etc. That being said, we do know that it’s loud, it’s angry and it will stick in your head for days on end.
If you want an accurate summary of this record, then you need go no further than the album cover. Seeing some faceless individual, sitting comfortably in the serenity of the material world, calmly and placidly reading The New York Times, while the world around them succumbs to an inferno. It’s a fitting visual metaphor for a record that pairs wry lyrical observations, with complacency and catharsis, against a backdrop of vicious, vitriolic and incendiary musical outbursts. PUP the name, functions as an acronym for ‘Pathetic Use of Potential’, which itself is apparently an affectionate term garnered from Babcock’s grandmother. And although she’s likely been around the block long enough to watch punk as a movement, go from the basement to the mainstream (unconsciously or otherwise), her assessment is a total misnomer, and could not be any further from the truth. The reality is that PUP pack more punk spirit, DIY-attitude and ‘who fucking cares’ ethos into ‘The Dream Is Over’, than most bands could hope to muster in their entire careers. So believe the hype, because this shit is the goods.
1. If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You
4. Sleep In The Heat
5. The Coast
6. Old Wounds
7. My Life Is Over and I Couldn’t Be Happier
8. Can’t Win
9. Familiar Patterns
10. Pine Point