When I interviewed PUP’s Stefan Babcock earlier this year, he described the band as “motivated individuals” and said they’re not ones to “back down” from a challenge. True to his word, it’s this fighting spirit that shines throughout the group’s second effort, ‘The Dream Is Over’.
PUP have had to contend with a lot since the release – and subsequent critical acclaim – of their self-titled debut, not least of all vocalist Babcock’s health issues, and these concerns colour ‘The Dream Is Over’. The danger was PUP could overthink things; chase more plaudits and move away from their frenzied sound, or return with a half-baked follow-up that lacked the punch of their debut. ‘The Dream Is Over’ avoids both of these pitfalls; it’s a ferocious return that builds on their early success.
‘The Dream Is Over’ feels instantly familiar, relying on the same formula as its excellent predecessor. Babcock rants and raves, spitting bile at every turn, yet the wry, observational and gallows humour still stands. Cuts like ‘My Life Is Over And I Couldn’t Be Happier’ and opener ‘If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will’ possess the same geeky pop-punk soul as ‘Never Try’ or ‘Dark Days’, while the broodingly epic ‘The Coast’ repeats the trick of ‘Yukon’ as a strong centrepiece to the album.
And, of course, there’s the choruses. Few bands are as fun to sing along to as PUP and ‘The Dream Is Over’ is filled with so many glorious gang vocal moments it just wants to pull you into a mosh pit and make you throw your fists in the air. ‘Familiar Patterns’ in particular is phenomenal and is sure to bring a broad smile to the faces of everyone who listens to it. Perversely, for a song that deals with disillusionment – a theme that runs throughout the album – it’s a lyrical and stylistic triumph.
It’s not quite a re-tread of old ground though. ‘Pine Point’ is a belting mid-paced torch song, for example, while the blistering ‘Old Wounds’ is probably the fastest, most brutal song they’ve written, straying into Bronx-style garage-punk/hardcore.
I’m always reluctant to reference anything to do with a ‘sophomore slump’ when it comes to the clichéd ‘challenging second album,’ but it’s an issue that PUP have neatly avoided by sticking to what made their debut so great and making incremental improvements. And, when you’re debut was near perfect, that’s the most you can ask for.
’The Dream Is Over’ by PUP is released on May 27th on SideOneDummy.
Words by Rob Mair (@BobNightMair)