Posts Tagged ‘The Dream Is Over’

It’s going to be clear to you and everyone else at the party that the Me First and the Gimme Gimmes discography could more than suffice for a day full of blowing up stuff. But in case you’re looking for some more recent bratty punk and some original songs, Pup’s newest album, 2016’s The Dream is Over, can freshen up your punk rock playlist.

The Toronto four-piece makes it look effortless as they turn songs about wanting to kill your buddies into shout-along anthems. The album title comes from a phrase the lead singer Stefan Babcock’s doctor used after Babcock actually shredded his vocal cords. So on a holiday when accidentally killing your friends is a real possibility and screaming is a must if you want to be heard, this record seems appropriate.

PUP’s ability to channel anxiety, depression, and generalized misanthropy into pummeling pop-punk hooks is an endlessly renewable resource. The band is also a good enough live act to justify the fact that half their lyrics seem to be about the exhaustion of touring. In 2019, the Canadian quartet followed up 2016 breakthrough The Dream Is Over with the equally great — and equally antisocial — Morbid Stuff. It helps that lead singer Stefan Babcock is one of punk’s great chroniclers of malcontent, even, and especially when he leans on self-deprecation: “Half the crap I say is just things I’ve stolen from the bathroom walls of shitty venues across America,” he snarls in “Full Blown Meltdown.”

PUP - The Dream Is Over

 

This quartet of childhood friends play a highly infectious propulsive brand of punk rock. There’s a touch of At The Drive-In in their unrelenting use of anthemic group vocals, but these guys are a lot more fun than the El Paso legends.  Their humble claim that they are, “4 dudes who play punk rock. That’s all,” belies the ambitions of their self-titled debut album, released via Side One Dummy Records, which deftly and effortlessly explores indie, classic rock and punk. Aptly, the moniker PUP is an acronym for Pathetic Use of Potential, and their lyrics largely deal with the lethargy and desire to escape that are synonymous with the dichotomies of youth.

The Toronto punk band open their second album, The Dream Is Over, with “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will,” a portrait of punk rock van life that’s darker and nastier than any I’ve heard at least in song. These guys are waking up on the same living-room floors for months on end, hearing each other tell the same jokes over and over again, wearing on each other’s last nerves. And it’s gotten to the point where every new van haul feels like a prison sentence. “Everything you do makes me wanna vomit / If this tour doesn’t kill you, buddy, I’m on it,” frontman Stefan Babcock hollers. And then: “You think you’re so original / I can’t wait for your funeral!”

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If you’ve ever been in a touring band, or been friends with someone who is, then some of this might ring true. It sounds fun — packing all your shit in a van with your friends, leaving your life behind for a few weeks, playing loud music for strangers, seeing the world. But every dream job eventually becomes a job, and this one happens to be a low-paying, transit-heavy, privacy-annihilating dream job. If you talk to enough people in bands, and if they’re willing to puncture your romantic image, you might learn that  for instance  going to Europe sucks because nobody has good weed and because you’re always dealing with customs people.

And yet the way PUP play the song, it still sounds fun. PUP have levels of on-record energy that I’m just not used to hearing in 2016 — from a punk band or from any other sort of band. They play with a rocketing urgency, charging headlong into every chorus with guns blazing. They’re unapologetic disciples of the whole EpiFat sound — the ’90s variation on melodic California pop-punk that briefly conquered the world. And they play it like it’s new, that combination of all-out speed and sugary melody and snot-rocket sarcasm. Babcock’s voice is a passionate nasal harangue, and every time they get the chance, his bandmates join in on some gang-shout singalong shit. They’ve also learned from emo and post-hardcore and fuzzed-up revivalist Japandroids-style indie rock, with all these chords crashing and dynamics switching up in profoundly satisfying ways. The Dream Is Over is a short album, just a hair over half an hour, and it never lets up. That’s good.

But while the music is hurtling along, Babcock is putting all his energy into making twentysomething life sound like a living hell. “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You” is the only song that explicitly addresses the day-to-day realities of being in a band, but the rest of the album is all about that stage of life, how much it can fucking suck. When you get past that time, it takes on a rosy glow, but when you’re in it, the puke-sticky floors and day-long hangovers and warning-your-account-has-dipped-below-$25 emails seem like they’re never going to end. Again and again, Babcock sings about himself as a drunk loser who can’t keep a relationship together — partly, at least, because so many of his relationships are with other drunk losers. “I’m sick and tired of blacking out on my carpet / And waking up all alone / So I brought you home,” he wails. Then, later: “I can’t stand you trying to save me / It’s so fucking frustrating.” And nothing drives him more nuts than the people who express concern over his wellbeing, to the point where his most self-deprecating line almost registers as a gloat: “They used to say, ‘Don’t quit your day job!’ / Guess what? I never had one!”

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Before the band recorded the album, Babcock went to see a doctor because his throat was hurting. The doctor told him his vocal cords were damaged and that he’d have to stop singing. That’s where the title came from; the doctor actually told him, verbatim, “The dream is over.” Babcock, of course, decided that no, fuck that. If anything, he’s yelling even louder on The Dream Is Over than he was on PUP’s 2013 debut. But you get the sense, listening to the album, that this whole thing could end anytime. His voice could just give out on him completely, and he knows it. So he’s packed all his angst and anxiety into one furiously fun 31-minute album, knowing that it could well be his last. And more than any rock album I’ve heard in a long minute, he sounds like he’s saying things that he absolutely needed to say. Sometimes, you see, your own body and your own friends can seem as malicious as a pack of machete-wielding white-nationalist skinheads. And sometimes, you just have to yell about it.

In 2014, actor Finn Wolfhard appeared in the music video for Canadian punk rockers Pup’s song “Guilt Trip,” playing a younger version of lead singer Stefan Babcock in a fictional depiction of the band’s origin. Since then, Wolfhard starred in a show called Stranger Things and has gained a couple of new fans. But Pup, have a new song out, and Wolfhard hasn’t forgotten where he came from.

“Sleep In The Heat,” off of the band’s adrenaline shot of a second album The Dream Is Over, is about the passing of a beloved pet, inspired by the death of Babcock’s chameleon Norman. The song is about the death of a pet and the video stars a dog, so be prepared to feel all the feelings. Babcock expressed his support for the younger versions of the band, saying, “Big shoutouts to the little Pup’s in this video, too—watching them bond and then say goodbye to that dog is one of the most heartwarming and heartbreaking things I can imagine. RIP all of our little friends. We miss you.”