You don’t name your band Fucked Up to maintain the status quo, and for nearly the past two decades the Toronto collective have been challenging perceptions of what gravely-voiced punk rock could be. Their latest release, Dose Your Dreams, is a bit like their take on either the Who’s Tommy, Husker Du’s Zen Arcade or the Clash’s Sandinista!, depending on how you look at it.
With nearly 90 minutes of music stretched across 18 tracks and two discs, the LP presents a genre-leaping rock opera with a convoluted story about a man named David (a character from the band’s David Comes to Life LP) who goes on a psychedelic trip after meeting an elderly woman named Joyce. It gets more complicated – apparently Joyce’s lover returns from some netherworld and muddies things up – but the confusing plot isn’t really that compelling.
Where Fucked Up excel this time is with the diversity of the music. Depending on the song, they explore Seventies-style AOR guitar solos (“Tell Me What You See”), sax interpolations (“Normal People”), new wave (“Dose Your Dreams”) and electronica (“Mechanical Bull”). There’s a lot going on, and it’s not all easy to digest, but they clearly dedicated a lot of attention to the finer details of songwriting this time. They even stumble on some successes, like “Two I’s Closed,” which sounds like a trippy Beach Boys album track.
Unfortunately, a lot of this is marred by frontman Damian “Pink Eyes” Abraham’s hoarse, toneless growls. It’s distracting and it’s a strange feature on some of the more generic songs, which might otherwise sound like traditional rock with clear debts to Tom Petty, Alice Cooper and Bryan Adams. It ultimately sounds like a radio stuck between two stations, a bit like the Hold Steady with laryngitis. Luckily there are enough musical diversions to keep it interesting.