An album review on The Dream is Over by PUP
On May 27, 2016, the Canadian punk band, PUP released their second studio album The Dream Is Over. The group of twenty-somethings recorded the album in Toronto, working alongside producer David Schiffman, known for working with punk outfits such as Bayside and Anti-Flag. The group’s name, although originally Topanga, is an anagram for Pathetic Use of Potential, as well as stemming from lead singer Stefan Babcock’s love of dogs. The album follows PUP’s first self-titled effort and was released on Sideonedummy records.
The Dream Is Over doesn’t stray far from the formula PUP created for their first album. The Toronto-native quartet continues with their signature punk riffs, memorable hooks, and screaming vocals. Although the band stuck with what worked the first time around, they still show a large amount of growth, especially in the area of songwriting. Babcock can alternate between sensitive recollection, (“My older brother died when we were kids/His best friend was wasted at the wheel”) to hopeless romanticism, (“I just don’t know what to do/I’m still fucked up over you”) to delinquent radicalism (“I was feeling a little bizarre/The day that I buried my family car”). The album’s title refers to a doctor’s visit that Babcock had before the recording of the record that was in part of a ruptured vocal chord. The band cites the medical professional in saying “the dream is over, kid” when examining the vocalist’s throat. In response to this, PUP announced back to back tours in 2016, venturing all over both Canada and America.
The Dream Is Over opens with a stripped down introduction entitled “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You I Will”. The song was written in 2015, a year that PUP played sets in over 250 shows. The song explores the strains these extensive touring habits put on the friendship all four members have had since elementary school, and the subsequently released music video depicts the four of them being pushed over the line and brutally maiming each other in true punk fashion. This song is followed by DVP, an ode to getting inebriated (as several of the band’s songs are). The song also explores the tail end of a troubling relationship. Stefan belts out the chorus,“She says that I drink too much/I’m fucked up and she hates my guts/She says I need to grow up”, accompanied by fast-paced drums. Along with intoxication, another recurring subject on the record is Babcock’s self-hate and self-doubt. Lyrics such as, “No matter what I do, I can never get anything right” on “Can’t Win” and “I never felt so shitty before/I never felt so miserable” on “Familiar Patterns” reflect the apparent outlet songwriting is for the young singer.
PUP’s sophomore LP clocks in at just over thirty minutes. In this amount of time the album details the emotions of helplessness, liquored up rage, fear, and unadulterated carelessness. Rarely can you find a song that seems just as suited to be on a break-up playlist with Adele and Rihanna, than it is to be on a punk mixtape with the likes of Black Flag and Rancid. In the present world of music where anyone who plays a guitar loud can be labeled as “punk”, PUP is a breath of much needed fresh air. Someday in the future of PUP’s relentless touring schedule there may come a day where Stefan Babcock’s vocal chords finally give way to his screaming fits captured for us by microphone. But until that day, the dream is yet to be over.