Release Date: Oct 5, 2018
Record label: Merge
In 2011, Toronto punk sextet Fucked Up released their, until then at least, 'rock opera' opus David Comes to Life, a record met with universal acclaim, that brought them as wide spread attention that their name and sound will allow. It pushed them beyond their relatively humble beginnings from the Toronto hardcore scene, though honestly, they had been doing that almost immediately from their inception, proved by their debut full length Hidden World. In between those albums they have released two other, less concept heavy full lengths, the former, The Chemistry of Common Life bagging them the Polaris Prize in 2009, as well as a slew of singles and compilations including their epic Zodiac series.
Dose Your Dreams, the first album from Fucked Up in four years, is unquestionably the band's most ambitious work to date. And let's not forget that this is the band that made the tremendous rock opera David Comes To Life - a tale of resistance, identity and heartbreak that involved unreliable narration and complex worldbuilding. This band is now two-thirds of the way through its Zodiac series, a prolonged song cycle of epic tracks based on each of the 12 signs of the Chinese Zodiac.
No two words in the English language inspire a greater sense of dread in the mind of a music journalist than: "Rock Opera. " (Maybe "Muse return," but that's for another review. ) Fucked Up were already a band blasting through the genre signifiers of the Toronto hardcore scene from which they'd sprung when they announced that their third album, David Comes to Life, was going to be a narrative concept album: a hardcore rock opera, set in the fictional town of Byrdesdale Spa, in late 70s, early 80s England, which followed its titular protagonist, a worker in a light bulb factory who gets into all sorts of scrapes involving bombs, dead lovers and a truckload of metatextuality.
It's easy to lose sight of our aspirations and dreams while living in a world where so many horrible things seem to be taking place at a rapid pace, but luckily Fucked Up are here to remind us there's still some good in the world. On the band's fifth full-length album, Dose Your Dreams, they take some time to remind us to strive for more and overcome the hardships of the world we live in along with a whole host of guest musicians. While the record makes listeners ponder ideas such as greed, capitalism, emotions, relationships and more ….
Time and again they have shown a flagrant disregard for any implied constraints of being a punk band; consistently bending the genre to their will, never as ostentatiously perhaps as on their third album David Comes To Life, the rock opera opus often viewed as their definitive statement to date. 2014's Glass Boys, while excellent, found Fucked Up returning to a more streamlined, pummelling beast. However anyone expecting more of the same from Toronto's shapeshifters are set to be shaken from their stupor by Dose Your Dreams.
The late D. Boon of the Minutemen once said, "Punk is whatever we made it to be," and no band that has emerged since the turn of the century has taken that message to heart like Fucked Up. Fucked Up's musical and philosophical roots are deep in hardcore punk, but they've never allowed the accepted boundaries of the genre to rein them in. Musically, Fucked Up still believe in the power of a big guitar and a howling voice, but they're aesthetic polytheists, with elements of prog rock, indie rock, experimental music, psychedelia, electronics, and dance music all informing 2018's Dose Your Dreams.
Fucked Up's fifth studio album arrives billed as their 'Screamadelica', an accolade presented by Canadian multi-instrumentalist and contributor Owen Pallett in reference to Primal Scream's 1991 commercial breakthrough. Yet commercial viability is far from the forefront of 'Dose Your Dreams', an epic double album that reaches way beyond an hour in running time. Instead, it's the vast musical influences and experimentation that incite the comparison; 'Screamadelica' borrowing heavily from the electronic music scene it was born into, and 'Dose Your Dreams' a frantic, angry and vast reaction to the state of the world today.
The Canadian six-piece are so much more than a hardcore punk band, as their multi-faceted fifth studio album proves It's been four long years since Fucked Up's last studio album, 'Glass Boys' - enough time, you might say, for a thorough reinvention. The Toronto six-piece's welcome return, 'Dose Your Dreams', is defined by an intriguing embrace of the experimental, with this elaborate double record adding psychedelia, digital hardcore and, yes, doo-wop to the band's already-cacophonous wall of noise. "Maximalism is a good word for it," lead guitarist Mike Haliechuk explained recently.
Damian "Pink Eyes" Abraham has made a career on a being a bit much: The Canadian punk recently produced an extreme wrestling documentary called Bloodlust and looks like he could get in the ring himself, particularly when the burly, bearded, and frequently shirtless frontman of Fucked Up smashes bottles over his head on stage. He always sings like he's trying to exfoliate his larynx with loose pieces of his ribcage and they're the most abrasive vocals anyone will encounter from a band putting out records on Merge. Glass Boys, from 2014, represented Abraham's purist vision of Fucked Up, a punk rock teleology that traced DIY ethics back to the ancient Greeks and had more guitar overdubs than a Smashing Pumpkins album.
As a guilty party myself, I'm able to point fingers: we've all focused a little bit too much on the Fucked Up soap opera. "Waaah, Mike and Damian don't get along!" "Waaah, the band might break up!" "Waaah, the band has…. Gasp… poor communication skills!" Well, what band isn't dysfunctional? Shocker, people that spend thousands of hours together in the studio and spend months together on the road in intimate settings don't always get along.
T oronto six-piece Fucked Up long ago cast off the shackles of hardcore punk orthodoxy, their wildly experimental songs defying easy categorisation. Dose Your Dreams is a sequel of sorts to 2011 concept album David Comes to Life, with that record's titular character this time embarking on a metaphysical odyssey at the suggestion of an elderly woman whose lover had long ago disappeared into a void. As happens.