The first half of Fucked Up’s Dose Your Dreams plays out like a struggle between what is ordinary and what isn’t.
At the beginning of Dose Your Dreams we are reacquainted with David, who once Came To Life in a story of love, revolution, and fate. In this new chapter, David is resigned to a desk job, trying to make a living and find some sense of happiness along the straight and narrow. It’s all upended in an explosive series of events: David is drugged in his office, fired, and meets a mysterious woman named Joyce Tops. Joyce then sends David on a spiritual journey to see his life, and the lives of others, from entirely different perspectives . . .
The character of David Eliade last made a significant appearance on a Fucked Up record back in the summer of 2011. That record, the operatic punk opus David Comes to Life, was an incredible exploration of love, loss, but most importantly, agency. Over the record’s four parts and 77-minutes of music, David knowingly wrestles for control of his own story with a narrator, who himself comes to realize he has been cast into a role. The details are a tad convoluted, but the theme of David’s story here is more straightforward: what does it mean, and what does it take, to control your own destiny?
Beneath all the grandiosity and meta-narration, David’s story is the story of his creators. De facto frontman Damian Abraham suggested this in a 2011 interview with Consequence of Sound when he said that the “songs on [David Comes To Life] are the most personal songs that Mike [Haliechuk, guitarist and songwriter] and I have ever written because we could hide behind characters and pretend that we’re talking about David and Veronica.” The personal in this case at least in part refers to the band’s relationship with itself, its status and the direction of the art. David Comes to Life (and Fucked Up’s career writ-large) is the sound of a band wrestling with its own narrative as a punk band, by both embracing it and trying to move beyond the baggage of convention.
Move forward seven years, and Fucked Up has cast David in yet another grand narrative, entitled Dose Your Dreams. This time, however, the story abandons meta-narration in favour of the metaphysical. In the same way that David is able to step outside all narratives and see his life from a sense of genuine removal, the members of Fucked Up have unmoored themselves from whatever narrative they have been tenuously clinging to. As Joyce takes David down the rabbit hole, the band is right there, parading along behind.
The first half of Dose Your Dreams plays out like a struggle between what is ordinary and what isn’t. Over its nine songs, Fucked Up chronicle David’s break from routine, his meeting with Joyce Tops, the beginning instances of his trip, and his gradual comprehension of his break from reality. Fittingly, the band eases into the odyssey with three songs that more or less feel right at home within the Fucked Up canon. “None of Your Business Man”, “Raise Your Voice Joyce”, and “Tell Me What You See” are perfect primers, or controls, for the break with convention that is to come.
The shift begins with “Normal People”, one of the band’s most striking emotional and artistic statements. As David detaches and starts to see himself from the outside, he contemplates normalcy — the capitalist conventions and narratives of happiness that take over and involuntarily settle in. He understands his complicity and vows to never go back. It’s a masterful, empathetic statement about what we give up to fit in. Everything that Fucked Up is trying to address on Dose Your Dreams — growth, change and a desire to break free — is thrown into focus on “Normal People”.
From there, elements of electronica, psychedelia, trance, and pop shine through on “Torch to Light”, “Talking Pictures”, and “Dose Your Dreams”. These three numbers build off of “Normal People”’s willingness to dive headlong into the void. The blistering punk of “House of Keys” and first-half closer “Living in a Simulation” almost feel like counterweights meant to ground the listening experience. As David contemplates his situation and wrestles with his new realities, the first nine songs of Dose Your Dreams do the same. By contrasting radical change with convention, Fucked Up eases the listener into a new sense of normal before the back half, where all bets are off.
Creating this new normal, chock-full of new sounds, forms, and voices (as we will see on the second half) will be the prevailing genius of Dose Your Dreams. With its latest opus, Fucked Up has diversified its approach to become an entity that can destabilize, subvert, and seemingly do anything.