If the first half of Dose Your Dreams is a struggle between what is ordinary and what isn’t, the second is about coming to terms with a new reality and learning to survive and thrive within it.
As David Eliade dives further down into his hallucinatory trip, we encounter a multitude of new voices, including Lloyd — Joyce’s ex-lover whom she sent on the same odyssey decades earlier. Lloyd longs to be reunited with Joyce, as David longs to find the meaning in his quest. As lovers reunite, and David transcends the capitalist trappings of his old life, the characters in this story find meaning and happiness in the dreams they work to will into reality . . .
Fucked Up have made a career out of being the hardcore band that operates the least like a normal hardcore band, and Dose Your Dreams might be the defining proof of that legacy. Hardcore canon consists of music that confronts how the things directly in front of us make us feel. It is some of the most literal and visceral music that exists: x makes us mad/sad, y is unjust, z is trying to destroy you and the planet. The in-your-face nature of the music and the signature vocal-stylings have always allowed for that sort of simplicity and matter-of-factness. Fucked Up have always addressed, and continue to address, x, y and z, but by doing so through a surrealist rock opera, they’ve managed to create a more complex universe for these ideas to populate; as a consequence they are able to dig a little deeper than most of their forebears.
By the end of its first half, it is clear that Dose Your Dreams is a record that wants to you look a little further than you are used to. It also eases listeners into the ever expanding sonic-universe of the 2018 version of Fucked Up. Listening to it flow and evolve makes the world around you seem bigger. David’s liberation by Joyce urges us to get out of our respective bubbles, get off of the internet, and go beyond the limits of our perception. If the first half of the album is a struggle between what is ordinary and what isn’t, then the second half is about coming to terms with that new reality and learning to survive and thrive within it.
Disc two seems to stray from the story slightly in order to address the complicated feelings of discovering that the world you live in is one that constricts and destroys people and their dreams. With the exception of a little bit of time travel and the heroic reuniting of long lost love, it’s the potential consequences of discovering that you’re “Living In A Simulation” that are explored most fully and completely on Dose Your Dreams back half.
It’s worth noting that at this point in the record, Damian Abraham’s voice becomes one of many. Regardless of the band dynamics that went into this choice, it feels thematically apt. By granting different singers the lead, Fucked Up allows us to feel the characters in the story’s changing perspectives. It also presents Fucked Up in an all new context — a band no longer limited or defined by hardcore vocals, but rather enhanced and textured by them.
The guitarmonies that underscore the paradoxically uplifting “I Don’t Want To Live In This World Anymore” — a song that isn’t so much about wanting to die as it is about how to best escape and overcome that urge — serve as a reminder of why the band continues to employ three guitar players; as a result, it’s one of the album’s back-half highlights. After the album’s second-best sax outro and the second appearance of John Southworth, we are treated to the first Fucked Up song that I wouldn’t hesitate to put on with my mother in the room. “How To Die Happy” is the first dream-pop song Fucked Up have ever written (I think) and features You’ll Never Get To Heaven’s Alice Hansen on vocals. It foreshadows a strange future where Fucked Up could be referred to as “chill”.
It’s followed up by “Two I’s Closed” — Fucked Up’s version of “Because” by the Beatles — and “The One I Want Will Come For Me”. The former features drummer Jonah Falco on vocals and the latter is led by Mike Haliechuk and begs the question: why weren’t they taking on vocals earlier in the band’s career? The album takes a darker tone with “Mechanical Bull”, the musical embodiment of what it feels like to live in a technocratic-nightmare-world. Its driving, industrial roboticism is cold and pummelling; Abraham and Ryan Tong of S.H.I.T. thrash and try to escape from the barbed-wire choker of society’s social media addiction. By the time ”Accelerate” kicks in, it’s clear that our heroes have found their autonomy; it’s one of the most furious and cathartic songs in the band’s catalogue.
The album’s final stretch of “Came Down Wrong”, a duet between Jennifer Castle and Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis (yes, it’s as nutritious as it sounds) rejoices in the reunion of Joyce Tops and her long-lost love Lloyd. “Love Is An Island In The Sea” and “Joy Stops Time”, featuring a show-stopping vocal feature from Miya Folick, makes clear the outcome of David’s vision quest. David realizes that embracing your dreams, making them real and filling them with who and what you love, is a sort of freedom from modern life’s struggle for your attention and your soul. What’s real and what isn’t doesn’t matter so much as what is meaningful.
By the time we reach Dose Your Dream’s conclusion, it’s hard to tell whether this record is the fittingly epic end of Fucked Up’s career or a portal into a whole new period. In a way, it actually feels like both. As we’ve learned from the album, things don’t need to be viewed through such a binary lens. Once all of these doors are opened and all the chains are removed, I imagine there is no putting yourself back in that cage. Plus, I know the fans are all now really looking forward to their “chill” phase. Regardless of what lies ahead for David, Joyce, Lloyd, Damian, Mike, Jonah, Sandy, Ben, and Josh, Dose Your Dreams will be remembered as Fucked Up’s most impressive statement and their most direct and complex confrontation of the world around us.