Last year, PUP’s singer Stefan Babcock was told “the dream is over” by his doctor. And seeing as he was verging on permanently damaging his vocal cords, it looked like they were going to be the last words on the matter. But almost an entire US tour and a handful of UK dates supporting Modern Baseball later and PUP have just dropped their second full-length release. The title? Let’s just say the words of the doctor struck quite a chord.
The Dream Is Over is PUP at their very best – raucous and rowdy with their hearts firmly on their sleeves. Although the songs do have a tendency to blend together if you’re not paying attention, its largely biographical nature is a huge draw – be it Sleep In The Heat, an absurdly heartbreaking tale about the death of Babcock’s pet chameleon to epic closer Pine Point in which he discusses losing his brother in a car accident. And on opener If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will, Babcock harshly addresses the conflicts between PUP’s members while on tour with a butter-wouldn’t-melt vocal before disrupting the flow completely with a piercing scream – clearly a well-needed expulsion of rage and frustration.
Conversely, lyrics like “you think you’re so original / I can’t wait for your funeral” provide a laugh here and there and immediately perk up a track which could have been bogged down by its subject matter had it belonged to another genre – perhaps one more partial to a moping ballad. The antithesis between subject matter and execution is a common thread on The Dream Is Over, with both loathing of others and self-loathing buried under a fast and furious pace and shoutier vocals with bulkier gang vocal backup. Old Wounds and DVP respectively illustrate both topics, with the latter, far and away the best the album has to offer, managing to cram more of PUP’s mettle into its two-and-a-half minutes than any of the other nine songs do.
When pitted against their acclaimed debut record (as most fans will be doing themselves), the change in Babcock’s voice is definitely evident, with more than a few shaky instances and almost cracking. Of course it’s not his fault, but in the long run it definitely works more in PUP’s favour than stands in their way. It may not be as smooth as the voice of old, but it highlights the passion and determination that has gone into this record by the bucketload. The whole-band gang vocals that beef up every track and add to the album’s rowdiness also have another side – they’re a middle finger to the naysayers and a declaration that the four men are sticking together despite the fights and obstacles that come their way. And judging by this album, the doctor who inspired the title should definitely be eating their words by now.
For fans of: The Menzingers, Joyce Manor, Beach Slang
Words by Georgia Jackson
‘The Dream Is Over’ by PUP is out now on SideOneDummy Records.