‘If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will’ might be the most perfect opener to an album ever. Anyone who is in or has been in a touring band knows what it’s like to spend vast amounts of time with the same three or four other people and have them drive you to absolute distraction, and Toronto punk rockers PUP have absolutely nailed that sentiment here. It’s something that will resonate with so many people, but for those of you who can’t relate, there will still be something on ‘The Dream Is Over’ that will strike a chord with you.
There are a few common themes throughout this album; relationships gone south, family tragedies, substance abuse, and that age-old pop-punk adage of hating one’s home town. What sets PUP aside from their peers in that genre is the raw honesty with which these things are delivered. There’s a real sense of sincerity and not a scrap of artificiality from the moment the aforementioned opener kicks in, right through to the emotional climax of ‘Pine Point’.
That’s not to say that things are kept simple lyrically; frontman Stefan Babcock vocalises some incredible imagery throughout the album, particularly on ‘The Coast’, which laments of lives lost in the lake near where he grew up. Particularly striking is the line “Watch over your flock / The cracks in the ice will swallow them up / The lake needs to eat, just like all living things / And it’s hungriest in the spring.”
Musically, there’s a lot of variety, but it’s all delivered with an extremely believable intensity. ‘The Coast’ and ‘Pine Point’ are slow, brooding numbers (for the most part) that ebb and flow through loud and quiet without ever feeling jarred or clumsy. There’s an obvious Brand New influence in places, but in the next breath they’ll hit you with a track like ‘Old Wounds’ that carries the energy and ferocity of The Bronx or At The Drive-In.
The stand out track is ‘Familiar Patterns’, which deals with the harsh realities of struggling to make it as a musician. It’s perfectly paced and has one of the most singalong-worthy choruses in recent memory, but there really are no weak tracks on this album.
‘The Dream Is Over’ is extremely difficult to find fault with. The vocals are imperfect (this is meant as a compliment), and the production is raw and gritty, so anyone who likes their music polished to a reflective shine might not click with this album. But, if you’re looking for a pop-punk record that feels (above all else) real, then look no further. This is definitely one of the strongest releases of 2016 so far.
Written by Liam Knowles (@wearefixtures)