I’m now realizing these reviews might be less of a look back at 2018 music than a look back at Fall 2018 music that I forgot to review. Because looking back, I feel like I kept a pretty good handle on writing about most of the notable music I encountered this year, though that feeling may be almost entirely indebted to this post. Though, whatever season of 2018 we’re talking about, there weren’t any albums that sounded anything quite like Fucked Up’s Dose Your Dreams, an album that stretches the boundaries of what a punk album can accomplish, and in an era when very few bands seem interested in exploring those boundaries.
I feel like I had a bit of a hard time penetrating its unruly charms when it came out, but every time I sit down to listen to it, Fucked Up’s 2011 release David Comes To Life has sounded more and more like one of the best rock albums (punk or otherwise) of the decade. Despite singer Damian Abraham’s uncompromising growl, which always seemed destined for sweaty house show basements, the band sonically sounded like they were aiming for stadium rafters with the guitar-driven majesty of classic rock. Then came the band’s next album Glass Boys, which was more of a lean, straight-forward punk album.
Dose Your Dreams on many levels sees the Toronto punks returning to the David Comes To Life approach on a couple different levels. For one, it’s literally a sequel of sorts to the storyline of the David rock opera, though admittedly it’s always a little hard to discern what’s going on in Abraham’s lyrics. But the same sprawling approach is applied here, with the album’s 70-minute running time and a familiar affinity for sweeping piano intros.
But in many ways, Dose Your Dreams sees the band pushing even harder against the limits of ambition and labels. There are strings and vocal choirs and dance beats and synths and just about everything you could possibly imagine on this album, and the fact that so much of it works is kind of amazing. And perhaps much of it works because you get the sense that there are so many different talented musicians involved in these songs.
Am I going to pretend I’m familiar with all of these musicians? Not really. Though there’s a song called “Came Down Wrong” that J. Mascis sings and shreds on, which doesn’t really sound like a Fucked Up song, but sounds fantastic nonetheless. Which is something that could be applied to most of this album. There are so many different artists and collaborators that show up on Dose Your Dreams, who mostly seem to be performing under the direction of guitarist/songwriter Mike Haliechuk. But somehow it comes together in one glorious, messy, sprawling hunk of rock that you just kind of have to sit and marvel at.