Following the misfire that was Glass Boys, and a recent Exclaim! article suggesting frontman Damian Abraham’s time with the band may be coming to an end, one can understand why Fucked Up fans might be nervous about a new album. Luckily, the Canadian punks have rarely (if ever) played by the rules, and Dose Your Dreams is nothing short of spectacular, constantly turning in on its own ideas and transcending what constitutes punk in 2018.
Whereas Glass Boys ploughed a somewhat straightforward line, jettisoning the immersive elements that have historically elevated Fucked Up above their noisy peers, its successor returns to the intricate and densely crafted rabbit warrens of David Comes To Life to continue the on-off story of the eponymous David. Last seen as a light-bulb-factory-worker-turned-anarchist who accidentally blows up his lover before discovering he is a character in a story, our hapless hero returns in the age-old tale of an office-worker forced to embark on a capitalist coming-of-age journey of life and death with a bin-dwelling, time-travelling revolutionary after being drugged and fired from his job. Much like its spiritual predecessor, most of the songs on Dose Your Dreams contain more lyrics than the average triple album, meaning this is not one to spin at the local karaoke bar, but with Fucked Up, the tapestry has always been more important than the picture, and their million-words-per-song lyrics rarely feel overwrought, instead adding to the engulfing surround-sound experience. Likewise, the wall-of-noise effect that has always been one of the band’s most effective weapons is given laser targeted purpose, filling the all-out punk assaults like a rhino in a windsock, but taking a backseat when the urge comes to explore more experimental realms. Whether channeling Happy Mondays on the title track, or going full Brass Eye Detroit house on Mechanical Bull, make no mistake, this is guitarist and songwriter Mike Haliechuk’s baby, and he makes no apologies for betraying the purists to make exactly what he wants, namely a wildly inventive, audacious and bold album that comes across more like a symphonic suite than a rock opera. Although vocal on only two thirds of the album, Abraham’s contribution is as visceral as ever, complementing Haliechuk’s lyrical and musical vision while allowing for a host of alternative voices to fill in the gaps, pushing the album up yet another level. After so many years, the idea of a Fucked Up without their blood-letting, fire-breathing, microphone-wrapping frontman is tougher to grasp than a bubble in a bathtub, but come the end of the album, it very much feels like this could be the best decision the band has ever made, on record at least if not on stage.
In short, Dose Your Dreams is an absolute masterpiece of songwriting and storytelling, the epitome of album as art, and if it does indeed prove to be the swansong of either Abraham or Fucked Up, they’re going out on the highest of highs.
Dose Your Dreams is out now on Merge