When first taking a look at the latest release by Canadian Punk Rock outfit PUP, the listener might get confused by putting together the title of the album that goes by the name of Morbid Stuff and the album cover. The cover shows four people blindfoldedly holding a knive and playing some weird version of Going to Jerusalem. Now – connecting this to the title of the release – we are about to expect that one of this four people is most probably going to be involved in some morbid stuff – and some weird humor. In order to justify this thesis, closer research is essentially necessary.
It was just a few weeks ago when I personally got to know PUP from a fellow author (Maik Transcended) of our blog – he surprised me with their first LP on my birthday and I immediately fell in love with that sound. PUP is a four-member outfit from Toronto, Canada and was formed in 2010. Originally, the band went by the name of Topanga (alluding to a character from a Disney series). When the music of the band changed after their first EP Topanga, the members considered this name to be no longer fitting, which was when PUP emerged. Morbid Stuff marks the band’s third studio album after their last release The Dream is Over from 2016. The album was produced by Dave Schiffman, who is also known from producing bands such as Weezer or The Mars Volta.
First and foremost – we are extensively dealing with the subject of depression on this album. It is no secret that singer Stefan Babcock has been struggling with depression for quite some time. This is why he explicitly deals with the subject-matter on the entire album – and addresses it from a large amount of different angles. On the one hand, this offers Stefan the possibility to portray his incredibly fitting voice for the topic. The raw production of the vocals combined with the focus on conveying emotions instead of perfectly hitting every tone is what causes you to feel the lyrics. On the other hand, the lyrics themselves are absolutely touching. When Stefan explains that his music is by no means special only because he deals with depression on “Free at Last”, we get to feel a perspective of self-reflection. This takes its peak on “Full Blown Meltdown”, where he explains that he is fully aware of the fact that his music is only loved because of the audience’s “fetishization of problems”. Putting himself into the center of the songs only leads to the fact that the audience feels connected to a narrator that suffers from whatever problems he might have, although according to him this does not attach any meaning to what he’s doing. It might be discussed, though, if this point of view can be denoted to a perspective of a person who unfortunately deals with depression.
Another major aspect that is quite striking about PUP in general is the ability to easily and smoothly jump between genres on their records. This was quite striking about their first release PUP already and can be spotted again on Morbid Stuff. Beginning with “Free at Last“, PUP shows that they see no difficulty in blending in elements of genres other than “general” Punk Rock. The song kicks in with an Iron Maiden-esque short intro riff, immediately leading into the Punk sound we know and love. This is just a short moment, but for three seconds you think that you are about to listen to an 80s Power Metal track. The band’s close ties to the Metal genre can be spotted throughout the entire album. Apart from that, a track like “Scorpion Hill” initially portrays a subtle interest in Country music as well, later on blending the sound with decent Punk. Eventually, in “Full Blown Meltdown”, we even get a straightforward Hardcore track in which singer Stefan shows that he can shout damn well.
The production of the album is again on point – similar to their former albums. The most striking element when regarding the sound on this album is the ability to combine on the one hand a raw and Punk-ish tone while simultaneously remaining absolutely clear when you tend to listen on higher volume. My first thought when I heard PUP for the first time was that the sound somewhat reminded me of early Gnarwolves. Although the latter jumped into less edgy production on their latest record (no disrespect), PUP sticks to their sound and tries to embellish the rawness. The result is a catchy, smooth-sounding record that cuts off at the edges thus remaining a Punk album.
There is, however, also one minor downside we can hear on this release. Having begun listening to those Canadians with their first and selftitled album, I was absolutely amazed by the drastic genre-jumps I could hear. This was also the expectation I carried into listening to this release – and it was definitely fulfilled. However, the band seems to be a little less daring with what they try to blend in on this record. There are certain tracks – as mentioned above – that take up this element, but there are also some tracks that stick to a generic Punk sound. This is – though – no problem on a broader scope due to the fact that the rest of the elements that are done so damn well overshadow this aspect.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
8 / 10
As usual, we added the two favorite tracks to our Transcended Review Playlist