If it seems as though the ambition and eccentricity has gone from punk and hardcore, that might be because Fucked Up have taken it all. The Canadian sextet have been consistently pushing the boundaries of those genres for a while now (to the point where they’ve basically smashed them down completely at times) with frequently lengthy, dense concept albums that have often been the recipients of critical acclaim despite their noticeable inaccessibility, both in sound and decidedly NSFW moniker. Nevertheless, the distance and pull they’ve accumulated within the indie scene is nothing short of extraordinary, and considering that’s come without selling themselves short or cutting back for mainstream-friendly consumption, it’s even more impressive.
That’s been the case for nearly two decades now as well, and if Dose Your Dreams proves anything in abundance, they’re not about to stop now, for better or for worse. But for everything that Fucked Up want to do with this album – and there really is so much of it – they’ve failed to realise that maybe the best way to go is to rein it in a bit. Where an album like 2011’s David Comes To Life was able to use its size to its advantage for grand and ultimately poignant storytelling, Dose Your Dreams oversteps the mark by such an insane degree that by the time you reach the end of this 82-minute odyssey, the mark has pretty much disappeared. Diehard Fucked Up fans will find little wrong with that, especially when this album moves into weirder and more experimental territory, but the amount of crossed wires and unearned scale leaves Dose Your Dreams as little more than a mess, and not even a compelling one.
The fact this is also a concept album on top of all that only convolutes it more, but as the spiritual journey of the returning David from their 2011 release is chronicled, it becomes hard to care with how little this album can actually get itself going. The genre-splicing is commonplace at this point, and pull out the disco thrum of the title track or the gnashing electronica of Mechanical Bull, there’s at least motion there that can get things going. Elsewhere though, Fucked Up have approached this album in the manner of throwing everything against the wall, and using it anyway even it doesn’t stick. The likes of None Of Your Business Man and House Of Keys are fairly faithful to their early hardcore punk days, but between the grotty pop-punk squalling of Living In A Simulation, the poundingly thick shoegaze of How To Die Happy and The One I Want Will Come For Me, and the rubbery skitter and floaty minimalism of Two I’s Closed, the general idea of album structure and progress doesn’t seem have been adhered to much, if at all. It’s already an album where replayability hits a wall in the exorbitant length, but so little distance is actually covered in terms of basic progression, and any momentum that harder, more instantaneous opening tracks have stalls out in a hurry, not to mention in Damian Abraham’s guttural bellows and how they continue the poor transition from hardcore punk frenzy to this more considered art-rock fare. At least the production has the clarity and layers to at least make this sound good, but it can’t solve the unresponsiveness or how this album insists on stretching itself out to almost excruciating levels.
And sure, fair play to Fucked Up for continuing to flex their creative muscles and go against the grain in terms of punk and hardcore, but there’s a limit to what you can actually do at any given time and Dose Your Dreams does everything in its power to actively buck against that. That’s the sort of approach doesn’t benefit anyone, not a band looking to maximise their appeal, nor an audience looking for something to potentially gravitate to and endorse when there’s really nothing there. At least Fucked Up have committed some act of mercy and made it as forgettable as possible.
For fans of: Pissed Jeans, Titus Andronicus, Self Defense Family
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Dose Your Dreams’ by Fucked Up is out now on Merge Records.