THE UNRAVELING OF PUPTHEBAND
In the summer of 2021 Pup decamped to a bat-filled mansion in Connecticut for an intense 5 week period of recording that would eventually become their fourth LP ‘THE UNRAVELING OF PUPTHEBAND’. The title is a clear giveaway but for those that need it spelling out: the Canadian’s went a bit loop-the-loop whilst toiling away on their new album, which has turned out to be their most musically ambitious and personal yet. From the outside looking in, you’d assume the group’s latest offering was their death-note before they spectacularly implode, especially if you tune into the little piano interludes that has vocalist/guitarist Stefan Babcock denounce equality amongst his peers “I vote to end democracy in this fucking band”.
This is all tongue-in-cheek as the group take a cynical swipe at the ‘board of directors’ more than once via the episodic ‘Four Chords’ intermissions. When looking back on the conception of ‘THE UNRAVELING OF PUPTHEBAND’ Babcock offers a candid viewpoint “as the weeks passed, we seemed less and less rational, objective, and sane. You can hear the band start to fall off the cliff, and because of that, I think this record is our truest and most genuine to date. There is nothing more PUP than a slow and inevitable descent into self-destruction.”
When speaking about the narrative that bleeds through PUP’s 2022 offering, again the group’s main protagonist doesn’t hold back “there’s only so many times you can write a song about how much you hate yourself before you write a song about how fucking good you are at hating yourself. I wanted to write about the horrible state of the world, but through a very specific and personal lens. It’s a lot of me trying to articulate my own coping with existential dread, hopelessness and what I’ve called ‘Grim Reaping’ – which is to me, the idea that we are all reaping what we sow, and right now we’re sowing some pretty fucked up shit.” This sense of all consuming anxiety and terror permeates the album as the foursome crash through their own brand of ragged pop-punk. Pertinently the band manage to hit the sweet spot between uplifting and anthemic, and head-in-your-hands-the-world’s-fucked panic – which is always a going to be a quirky juxtaposition.
There’s something weirdly cathartic about ‘THE UNRAVELING OF PUPTHEBAND’; clearly PUP are dialled into the events of the awful 20s (you know, like the roaring 20s from 100 years ago, but our version is horrifically shit? Too tenuous maybe?) along with the rest of us. ‘Totally Fine’ depicts a very human reaction to trauma: turning a blind eye. “Lately I feel like I’m slowly dying and if I’m being honest I don’t mind” sums it up, as Babcock bellows these words while PUP rampage through arena-ready punk. With the intensity dialled down a notch and via an airy, mid-paced indie-cum-pop punk sound, ‘Relentless’ carries on the narrative of how things are fucked-up but we’ll battle on regardless.
There’s a defiance to “fuck all the dread/it’s endless/you can’t kill it like you want it” as if to accept that shit’s royally messed up right now. ‘Robot Writes a Love Song’ is a playful take on how a machine becomes overwhelmed by a torrent of human feelings and eventually…errr…kills itself! Via a sound that ushers in horns, drum machines and something closely resembling The Flaming Lips, Babcock chronicles an AI’s unfortunate demise “my systems crashing now/my drive is shutting down/they gave me the Turing test/So I guess it’s best to end it now.” There’s a one-two combo found at the heart of ‘THE UNRAVELING OF PUPTHEBAND’ that illustrates the toxicity of when relationships don’t work out. ‘Waiting’ is a pendulum swing of emotions as the band roar with a primal snarl, merging gnarled verses and huge singalong choruses. Babcock can be heard reasoning “I should be taking a sabbatical from you” at the start of the song but towards the song’s dying moments claims “I’m not taking a sabbatical from you” like a man who clearly can’t work out what’s good for him.
‘Habits’ is the album’s biggest sonic departure, with a sound that pulls in tinny psychedelia and a woozy aesthetic. The band’s mouthpiece cuts a dejected figure when he declares “told you I’m doing just fine/but to tell the truth I feel like total shit whenever I’m with you.” Closing the quartet’s fourth outing is the crunching ‘PUPTHEBAND Inc. Is Filing for Bankruptcy’ which acts like one last blast of catharsis with a little sprinkling of theatrics. Babcock delivers the final set of lyrics with a devilish glint that sums up the record and PUP “there’s no place I’d rather be instead/even though everybody here is fucked in the head/I’m truly grateful for the life that I’ve led/I’m just being dramatic.”
I’ll leave it to Babcock himself to sign things off as he simply concludes “we can’t wait for you to hear it. It’s a complete disaster in the best way.” ‘THE UNRAVELING OF PUPTHEBAND’ – coming apart at the seams never sounded so good.
Words and thoughts by Adam Williams
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