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On “The Dream Is Over,” Pup Confirms the Opposite (Review)

On “The Dream Is Over,” Pup Confirms the Opposite (Review)

Written by Kevin Madert

For all the misery Pup espouses on The Dream Is Over, they seem to be having a pretty good time. While the Canadian foursome’s sophomore full-length teems with omnidirectional vitriol, it also teems with insightfully empathetic, listenable music. Thanks to the group’s admirable acumen, these elements coalesce to make up one of the best albums of the calendar year.

With regularity, TDIO is carried by lead singer Stefan Babcock’s tortured warbles and scathing shouts, occupying the space where immeasurable sadness intersects unrelenting fury. Backing him with gusto are well-deployed gang vocals that see his fellow bandmates emphasizing poignant moments and endowing choruses with a swelling gravitas. “Why can’t we just get along?” the band belts in unison as Babcock rattles off a fast-escalating list of morbid desires for them in album opener “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will,” – inspired largely by the group’s often hellish experience on 2015’s Warped Tour.

Far from a one-note pony, he’s well-equipped to shine in moments of calm; the opening seconds of the aforementioned album kick-off & the morose album closer “Pine Point” give him space to flex his emotive nuance.

The vocal virtuosism is complimented by the capable instrumentation of Messrs. Nestor Chumuk (bass), Steve Sladkowski (guitar), and Zack Mykula (drums), alongside additional guitar work by Babcock. Wildly catchy melodies run counter to frenetic riffs rife with distortion on tracks like “DVP,” and “Familiar Patterns,” – the latter of which also kicks off with a pretty bumping bassline. Percussion keeps the clip fierce and steady; “Doubts” and “Sleep In The Heat” contain some album-highlight crate-thumping.

On multiple occasions, quiet moments allowing for brief introspection are juxtaposed against sudden shifts in tempo and volume, keeping things unpredictable even in songs spanning only a few minutes. Arching over all is a rawness that calls up the ambience of a dimly lit, packed-out basement, dust drifting down from the eaves, sweat slicking the floors, as sound emanating from a dingy system fills the room, roiling against the foundation & threatening to bring the whole thing down.

Even more relatable than the aforementioned ambience is the imagery called up by the lyricism. Oft-poetic but never elitist, consistently observant yet never shoved down the listener’s throat, the on-point writing takes TDIO from a solid album to an essential one. Sometimes it’s former lovers – “Now that I’ve got nothing / you’re having your doubts,” Babcock calls out a nameless former suitor on “Doubts.” Other times the homes that raised them weigh heavy on the vocal chords. “Pine Point” is a sort of twisted homage to its namesake town, and the utter defeatism present in the opening lines of “The Coast” hit harder than most anything on the album: “I couldn’t spend another winter in this desolate fishing town / counting the months as they wear me down.”

Focus is also placed on more vague notions, like the mounting anguish of repeated, inexplicable failure – “Can’t Win,” drives home this discouragement with lines like “I just wanna be something / never thought I’d be nothing at all.” This charged collection of musings feels akin to a long overdue sit-down with an unfortunate therapist (one where the office is subsequently doused in lighter fluid and set ablaze).

The Dream Is Over bursts with jagged tunes that manage to be catchy as hell without sacrificing any of the thematic edge present throughout. This is an album that speaks to anyone who’s ever wanted to sock their boss in the face, run the guy that just swerved in front of them off the road, or burn down their former lover’s house, but hasn’t (yet). That these ten aural manifestations of internalized, often unrequited anger and sadness and confusion and fear are as relatable as they are tear-out is a testament to Pup’s lyrical prowess and musical sensibilities – both of which have evolved with a vengeance since the group’s debut.

You can find The Dream Is Over in all the standard places, and stream it via the group’s Bandcamp below. Pup is currently on a world tour in support of the album (full dates can be found here) and they’ll be making a sold-out stop at DC9 in Washington, DC on June 21 with support from Rozwell Kid and Pkew Pkew Pkew.

Connect with Pup: (Facebook Twitter BandcampOfficial Site)

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