Over the last few years, critics have announced the death of rock n’ roll so often that it has become pretty difficult to truly wonder if they’re not right. It gets even harder to not think that maybe – just maybe – there’s no going back either; it is the twenty-first century, after all, and making music on a computer is easy – so why bother picking up a guitar? Are those of us who have denied the mortality of rock really just dreaming? Are we kidding ourselves?
Pup‘s new album, The Dream Is Over, is glistening, gleaming, shining proof that there’s still life in the atrophied, drug-damaged body of rock n’ roll yet. Here, singer/guitarist Stefan Babcock, bassist Nestor Chumak, drummer Zack Mykula and guitarist Steve Sladkowski don’t bother thinking about the finer points of rock, they just plug in, turn up the volume on the ten new songs they put together and begin blasting away defiantly in the face of fear. Those who hear any one of these ten songs will be left with no doubt that what they’re hearing is the first great blast from a new breed of rocker who might not know or care about what came before them – they’re only concern is getting what’s in them out. It is cathartic; it’s candid; it’s ragged; it’s rapturous; it’s smart; it’s smart-assed; it’s capricious; it’s great. Most importantly, it is proof that rock still exists without necessarily having a hyphenated sub-qualifier affixed.
… And listeners will know and be able to recognize all of that from the moment “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will” opens The Dream Is Over with some hard feelings (“If this tour doesn’t kill you, I will/ I hate your guts & it makes me ill/ Seeing your face every morning”) and perfectly temperate sonics before absolutely exploding – totally flaying the minds of listeners and sounding a little like The Moldy Peaches might have, had they ever recorded while high on PCP – with overdriven guitars and great big drums flying every which way. There won’t be a soul listening who isn’t left to feel as though they weren’t just hit in the chest with a cannonball, but the effect will be energizing; they’ll suddenly feel as though their chests have been filled with fresh, mountain-clean air, and it will be fantastic. Sure – every single word which follows that first explosion is spat out in keenly melodic disgust (“For a second, let’s be honest/ Nothing will clean your filthy conscience/ Everything you do makes me wanna vomit/ If this tour doesn’t kill you, buddy I’m on it” is an excellent and representative sample), but it’s hard not to love it; maybe not live it, but definitely memorize every word and just scream along with them because it’s just SO MUCH FUN. It might sound contrary, but “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will” plays like a brand new and perfectly welcome reason to live.
After “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You…” rocks and shocks listeners out of the computer-fabricated and digitally measured musical doldrums they’ve been cast into by the current trends so prevalent in radio-ready music lately, Pup bounces back with NINE MORE PERFECTLY UNHINGED slabs of the same. And it’s great; Pup immortalizes some unloving bitch as well as the Don Valley Parkway (also known by every Ontarian as the “great, frustrating highway to nowhere”) in “DVP” before coldly bemoaning Canadian winters (as well as some girl found dead in an unnamed local lake) in “The Coast” and taking another round with another girl who was unfaithful in “My Life Is Over & I Couldn’t Be Happier,” to name only the greatest occasions of brilliance in this run-time (only a desire for brevity keeps this critic from mentioning other personal highlights). When every song starts, listeners will find themselves getting assaulted by a hyper-angry and obnoxious wave aggression which will leave them simultaneously starry-eyed and ready for more. It may seem trite or unbelievable, but there’s no other way to qualify it; after going front-to-back with the album, each and every track on The Dream Is Over is a stroke of genius. Get it now if you’re interested in discovering a life-altering event.
(Side One Dummy/Universal)