Release Year: 2016
In 2014, PUP were a bunch of punks from Toronto who shook up the rock world with their well-received self-titled debut. Something about their destructive vibe, old school punk rock ethos, and raw nature made them memorable. They were on the path to a successful career until vocalist Stefan Babcock discovered a hemorrhaging cyst on his vocal chords. His doctor told him “the dream is over.” Now, the band are back with their second album, aptly named The Dream is Over. With so much praised heaped on their previous effort, it would be easy for them to cave under pressure and expectations. What did PUP do? They stood up to it and spat in its face.
The thing that makes PUP so good is their raw emotion and humorous lyrics. This is best demonstrated in the opening track “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will.” When a song starts with “If this tour doesn’t kill you/then I will/I hate your guts and/it makes me ill” you know you’re in for a good time. Though the song is about raging at someone you spend a lot of time with, it’s kind of playful with the upbeat, yet intense music and the funny lyrics. This one is raw punk all the way with the blazing guitars and hard energy as Stefan Babcock sings “makes me wanna gouge my eyes out with a power drill.” From there it speeds right into the next track “DVP.” Similar to their hit “Reservoir,” this one is non-stop chaos. The song races on almost leaving listeners in the dust. It’s another track that fits with their punk nature, especially since it references getting fucked up on three beers.
This chaotic vibe continues for the most of the album and each song is fucking killer. “Doubts” is a non-stop ride of aggressive, heavy music that sounds more at place in heavy metal. It’s another one of those songs that speeds past you in a blur, but you want more as soon as you hear it. “Old Wounds” follows the same suit where everything is so chaotic and crazy you don’t know what’s happening, but you love every second of it. It also has this great snotty vibe to it as Babcock sings “You wanna know if I’m still a prick?/Well I am!” Aside from aggression, there’s also a lot of self-deprecation happening in songs like “My Life is Over,” “Can’t Win,” and “Family Patterns.” These tracks could be the next slacker anthems as they talk about wasting your life away, never catching a break, and fucking up a relationship. Songs like these are so damn satisfying because PUP holds nothing back. They don’t want to take a breather and calm down. They’re mad as hell and you’re gonna hear all about it.
Though most of the album is in-your-face, abrasive punk rock, there are some slower, heartbreaking moments. “The Coast” is an eerie tale about people drowning in a lake as if seeking vengeance (kind of like that Supernatural episode). The music starts out with a more mellow pace and Babcock’s vocals are shaky as if wounded. Everything gets more intense later as he starts screaming and the guitars get heavier. It’s a bleak track, something the band returns to on “Sleep in the Heat.” The music here is a bit more upbeat and playful. It starts out kind of funny with light lyrics about getting high (“All I wanna do is get stoned”), but the song takes a turn for the worst after the second verse. Babcock talks about being fed up of blacking out along at home, so he brings someone home. It then becomes clear they’re sick and no matter what he does, he can’t save them in the end. It’s one of those moments you sit back and think holy shit. It’s possible he’s talking about a dog, since there’s a reference to going to the vet. It’s still nerve shaking either way.
But the song that sends shivers down your spin is the closing track “Pine Point.” Everything about this track is grim as hell. Right from the opening with the somber music, you picture the grey ominous opening to Twin Peaks. Babcock sounds broken as he sings about an older brother that got killed by a drunk driver. Whether or not this actually happened, it’s a tragic event to think about. The mood is similar to Nirvana’s cover of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” It’s haunting and sounds like there’s no hope left for those in the desolate Pine Point. This is a highlight on an already stellar album. It shows a different side to PUP. They’re not just a bunch of raucous punks that only know how to play fast and loud. They know how to craft thought provoking songs that expands genres.
This is an album that deserves to be played loud and all the way through. Not only do they keep the crazy, wild punk rock that made their debut so fierce, somehow this effort is tighter and fine-tuned, yet doesn’t lose any of its rawness. There’s not a single low point on the entire album and during an age where digital singles are king, that’s pretty impressive. The record is also varied with slow, somber songs to shake things up ensuring listeners don’t get burnt out on the intense punk rock ride. With the improved music and songwriting, PUP have grown as a band. They still seem like those guys who aren’t afraid of being honest no matter how much it may hurt, but they’ve managed to top their stellar debut. It will probably be one of the best albums of 2016 with its raw honesty, intense drive, and brutal nature. Bravo, PUP.