Fucked Up – ‘Dose Your Dreams’ review

Score

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. “This was trying to be the biggest thing we could make.”

That approach makes for a compelling, dense, and at times oddly familiar listen. As Arcade Fire collaborator Owen Pallett – who arranged the string sections on ‘Dose Your Dreams’ – has observed: “My God, Fucked Up have made their ‘Screamadelica’.” Indeed, the album’s early ’90s-indebted title track will transport you to a very un-Fucked Up realm – one where woozy, wah-wah pedal-fuelled guitars are the order of the day. Unshackled poppy strings whizz about, and melons are well and truly twisted.

Haliechuk primarily wrote the album with drummer Jonah Falco, with the two summoning the other members of Fucked Up to the studio only when required – meaning that, for the first time in the band’s history, charismatic frontman Damian Abraham brought only his customary throaty vocals to the party. He even cedes control of the microphone to Haliechuk, Falco, guitarist Ben Cook and a host of other guest vocalists at regular points in the 18-track album. ‘Dose Your Dreams’, then, is Haliechuk’s baby. “I came into this one being like, ‘I want to make a definitive Fucked Up record,’” he declared to Billboard recently.

New sounds and set-ups may be all the rage for the Fucked Up of 2018, but they’re still embracing the lyrical concept album. The narrative of ‘Dose Your Dreams’ reunites us with the band’s favourite fictional character David – whose story dominated ‘David Comes To Life’, their 2011 rock opera – as he serendipitously meets Joyce Tops, a mystic woman who helps David along a spiritual journey. This voyage of discovery isn’t particularly easy to follow at first – you’ll at least need a copy of the lyrics to hand if you’re intent on following the story – but its moral of rejecting the norm and following (or dosing up) your titular dreams is certainly one you’re likely to warm to over repeated listens.

This need to get properly acquainted with ‘Dose Your Dreams’ will also aid your eventual appreciation of Fucked Up’s newfound and unbridled approach to genre. There’s an awful lot to tuck into: just for starters, there’s the cooing, moonlit dream-pop of ‘How To Die Happy’, the rattling ska-punk punch of ‘Living In A Simulation’, and the Beach Boys-type group harmonies of ‘Two I’s Closed’ and ‘Love Is An Island In The Sea’. The band’s versatility isn’t totally flawless (‘Mechanical Bull’’s headache-inducing discord could’ve and should’ve been left in ‘Drafts’) but you simply have to admire the scope of their – or should we say Haliechuk’s – ambition here.

For those who may be longing for Fucked Up’s hardcore punk days of old, you needn’t fret: the trio of opener ‘None Of Your Business, Man’, ‘House of Keys’ – both equipped with churning guitars, thumping drums, and Abraham’s impassioned roar – and the searing ‘Accelerate’ are sure to get the circle pit-minded faction of their fanbase on side.

There’s almost something for everyone on ‘Dose Your Dreams’, and, thankfully, that eclectic aspect to Fucked Up’s most ambitious project yet means it leans more towards opus than hopeless.

Details

Release date: October 5
Record label: Merge