In the same way that it’s near impossible to find a Californian punk act who don’t sing about drugs, so to is difficult to talk about PUP’s sophomore album without falling into a cliche that every review has fell into by addressing this album’s title: after visiting a specialist, frontman Stefan Babcock was bluntly told “the dream is over” due to the fucked up condition his vocal chords were in. While this revelation may have torn the band apart, it wouldn’t be very punk to let this get to them and as a result, The Dream Is Over stands out as one of the most solid rock records of the year.
Sound wise, PUP are still as hard hitting and ballistic as ever with hardcore gang singalongs and slick guitar riffs adorning the majority of tracks on display here. Opening track ‘If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will’ is the very definition of confessional and goes through an audio metamorphosis, starting off with a lone guitar and Babcock’s vocals before becoming a detailed tale of disgust and apathy that the band have had for one another due to their extensive touring. Lyrics like “every line, every goddamn syllable that you say makes me wanna gouge out my eyes with a power drill” helps to put this tension into perspective, almost making you wonder how on earth they managed to craft the next nine tracks.
However, unlike other acts of the genre who do a lot of rocking but very little growing up, PUP manage to nail the topic of maturity on DVP which flows seamlessly on from the aforementioned If This Tour… into an even more anthemic style. Addressing how they handle issues, in this case getting “so drunk that I can’t speak”, as well as others telling them to grow up, the track manages to keep a positive vibe going in its instrumentals whilst juggling some of the darker lyrics on here.
As the title of the album would imply, The Dream Is Over is very much about being rock bottom. The self deprecation that manifests the record is unrelenting and even the titles of some of the tracks like “My Life Is Over And I Couldn’t Be Happier” helps hammer this home. There’s also songs like “The Coast” that are aware of this and try to learn from it with the lesson from it being that some things can’t be changed and we’re not to blame though the imagery of dead bodies under the ice isn’t any less haunting.
Although the band have stated that their name stands for “Pathetic Use Of Potential”, PUP have managed to build upon the strong foundations of their debut LP and hone all of their anger and punk influence into one of the most solid records of the year. In the band’s own words, The Dream Is Over is a “rowdy, noisy clusterfuck” and while it may hark to a low point in their personal lives, this visceral record highlights an act who, health warnings or not, are unstoppable.
-Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)