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Album Review: PUP – The Dream Is Over

By Kieran Berry (@Kieran_M_Berry)

May 24th, 2016

For an album entitled "The Dream Is Over," Toronto's own PUP has a lot of ambition in their music, and despite the conclusory nature of the title, has their entire career ahead of them. The naming of this album, however, is not random. The band's existence almost came to an end prior to recording when it was discovered that lead vocalist Stephan Babcock had a benign cyst growing on his vocal cords. PUP took a brief hiatus following the diagnosis but, after receiving a hesitant all clear, quickly returned to the studio to record. After hearing Babcock punish his larynx on this latest album, its spectacular that he has a voice at all, especially after the band had just wrapped up a tour of 450 shows in just under two years.

"The Dream Is Over" is PUP's second studio album, following their self-titled debut LP back in 2013. After the release of their first record and touring for a number of years, PUP has had a chance to refine their sound and come into their own unique aural idiom. PUP identifies as a punk rock band first and foremost but this new disc has some strong metal and pop influences strewn in its tracks. The album starts off with "If This Tour Doesn't Kill You, I Will," an obvious allusion to the stress and frustration Babcock and his bandmates felt being on the road with each other for such a long time. The song's highlight is the introductory verse which start with naked vocals and a vamping acoustic guitar eventually hitting a post where the chorus chimes in with a memorable guitar lick and hard driving drums that changed the dynamic of the song to the more fun, party style of traditional punk.

The next three songs "DVP," "Doubts," and "Sleep in the Heat," feel like standard punk fare; lots of screaming, drums, heavy guitar, and excited rhythms meant to incite head-banging. The fifth song on the album, "The Coast," provides a nice change of pace. While it maintains the same instrumentation and overall style of the band, it has a different tone that separates it from the other songs. After the intro and first verse of the song, the percussion utilizes a very native-style rhythmic pattern that, when paired with the lyrics reminiscing about coastal fishing towns, gives off a very Canadian feel. The subsequent four songs, "Old Wounds," "My Life Is Over And I Couldn't Be Happier," "Can't Win," and the appropriately named "Familiar Pattern," fail to stand out, though inherently the songs would sound unique on their own. But after an entire album on hard-driving punk, it gets a little repetitive and loses its distinction. The record has one final saving grace however: its ending tune "Pine Point", an almost balladic homage to a small town in the Northwest Territories with the same name. The pace of the song is much slower than the rest of the album, but ramps up as it goes, making a dramatic crescendo that serves as a glorious finale to the album, and one that when played live would prompt the audience to raise their lighters in reverence.

On the whole, the "The Dream Is Over," is an exciting, energetic, and enlightening view into Toronto's punk music scene. The LP functions well under its own theme of depression and listlessness, as each song is tethered to the band's melancholy attitude towards the thought of potentially disbanding. The music itself however has an overall tone of inspiration and perseverance, as if to say, "we almost died, but we're going to rock on anyway." At just slightly over 30 minutes, it is a very short record, and listeners will often find themselves expecting an additional verse or chorus of a song but are presented with an abrupt end. While there is a small feeling of monotony, the album maintains several unique tracks that will become staples in PUP's live shows for years to come (but best of luck getting tickets, as both upcoming shows for the band in Toronto and Montreal have been sold out for weeks).

"The Dream Is Over" is set to release May 27th by Royal Mountain Records and can be ordered through PUP's website puptheband.com as well as on iTunes. Be sure to also visit the band's official YouTube page "Puptheband," and check out their impressively made music videos.