Published May 25, 2016If you're a Canadian into punk rock, chances are you've already of PUP, and have been itching to hear the Toronto band's second album, The Dream Is Over. The group broke out with their infectious, sing-along brand of catchy-as-hell punk rock in 2013, and haven't lost a lick of their charm or intensity since; the follow-up to the group's energizing self-titled debut is bigger, heavier, faster and louder this time around.
And yet, there's still plenty here for more than just the punks. PUP's finest quality is that they can be relentlessly confrontational and equally self-critical, all with a smile on their face. This begins with "If This Tour Doesn't Kill You, I Will," a three-part rager that begins softly, despite singer Stefan Babcock's lyrics about violently hating his most trusted allies, and then explodes into a cacophonous party-starter. Then it's right into "DVP," with its head-pounding, finger-snapping mayhem.
The band contrasts heavy, discordant punk with sublimely hooky indie rock on the next two tracks, "Doubts" (a must-hear) and "Sleep in the Heat," along with the toe-tapping "My Life Is Over and I Couldn't Be Happier" and the room-rallying "Can't Win." There's a dose of snotty, whirlwind punk on "Old Wounds" (which bears a resemblance to the band's London, Ontario neighbours, Single Mothers), and then there are restrained, introspective and bluesy sections like the closer, "Pine Point."
Throughout the album, one thing that strikes a chord is that The Dream Is Over manages to be a distinctly (yet not overtly) Canadian recording, if not for that indescribable sonic quality found among acts like Hollerado, Japandroids and Born Ruffians, then at least for its subject matter, which spans the Canadian landscape. "DVP" is a reference to Toronto's perpetually clogged Don Valley Parkway; "The Coast" opens with the lines, "Canadian cold, Canadian cheer / I couldn't spend another winter up here in this desolate fishing town"; and "Pine Point" is about the unique ghost town of Pine Point, NWT (inspired by the same northern wilderness trip that provoked "Yukon" on the first record).
It's not common to hear patent Canadian references in most underground music, for whatever reason — and, let's be honest, we've probably all been guilty of perking up with a giddy half-grin upon hearing one of the rare few, in that classically dorky, self-affirming Canadian way — but this Toronto group manage to capture some of the atmosphere of the country's vastness, from its biggest city to its smallest, most forgotten town, in a way that might even make Blue Rodeo jealous.
All told, PUP are a group of guys that just seem to go with the flow, and see where it takes them. The Dream Is Over has no pretext or pretence; the band did what they did best in 2013, and then did it a bit better here. If these aren't songs for a generation, they're songs for a demographic. It's a record that's youthfully sassy and sarcastic in one breath and introspectively mature in another, a brand of cynically fun punk rock best enjoyed by someone who's young at heart and maybe just a little bit pissed off. (Royal Mountain Records)