This Place Sucks Ass by Pup album review by Adam Williams for Northern Transmissions

Little Dipper/Rise Records

8

Pup

This Place Sucks Ass

After wrapping up ‘Morbid Stuff’, PUP’s third record, the Toronto quartet had a batch of tracks left over that didn’t quite fit the mould of the LP they’d just finished. Reasoning that these songs were too frenetic and unhinged, which is saying something given ‘Morbid Stuff’ is a body of work centred around fantasizing about the end of the world, the band felt this surplus material needed to stand on its own. Coupled with a cover of Grandaddy’s ‘A.M. 180’ and ‘Rot’, which was written and recorded this year, the Canadian punks amassed a further four previously unreleased tracks under the brilliantly named ‘This Place Sucks Ass’ EP.

The title of the 6 track EP originates from a band in-joke that’s used to describe whatever city they were in on tour, but now the saying has become synonymous with this year’s unstoppable shitstorm. “It was a thing we used to say as a joke a million times on tour,” frontman Stefan Babcock says. “Literally any city, whether it was Lethbridge, Alberta, or New York City, we’d be like, ‘This place sucks ass.’ We have so much negativity, and sometimes it becomes so extreme and ridiculous that we start to find it funny. But at this moment in time, it feels so fucking real. Wherever you are, it sucks ass right now. So, wherever you live, whatever your circumstances, this is an EP about the place you’re from, and the place you’re at now.”

Given the title and its background, it comes as no surprise that ‘This Place Sucks Ass’ is an EP that’s strung out, pissed off and on the verge of some kind of episode. ‘Rot’ kicks things off and it’s like you’re having to play catch-up as Babcock launches into a breathless, frazzled tirade as soon as you hit play. Framed by feedback, revving guitars and drumstick taps, the vocalist/guitarist manically states “why disguise my bad intentions/I’ve got nothing to hide/expect the tendency to separate the part of me/that’s feeling too desperate to die” as the song erupts to the sound of ragged punk. It feels at the brink of collapse, but the band are just about holding it together, as it veers and swerves from pent-up tension to something hook-laden. Paranoia and desperation ripple through ‘Anaphylaxis’ (fun fact – “Anaphylaxis is a severe and potentially life-threatening reaction to a trigger, such as an allergy”), a song that sounds like Gaslight Anthem freaking the fuck out, as it swings from boisterous arena rock to something that’s off-kilter and frazzled. Babcock’s wordplay suits the deranged nature; he cuts the figure of someone on the cusp of a breakdown “I think I’m dying/I hope it’s all in my head”. ‘A.M. 180’ stays pretty true to the original Grandaddy song, with its roaring histrionic guitars and its pockets of swaying, ooooo-ing calm.

For an EP that trades in chaos, ‘Nothing Changes’ opts for something a little more poppy sonically but lyrically, it still finds PUP in the doldrums. This time their frustrations are aimed at being stuck in a rut “I thought I could fill the void, but nothing ever changes” states Babcock as vocal harmonies swoon in the background, while the song glides through tales of dejected introspection. Spasmodic pockets of crunching guitar and a darker, raucous sound fight for the limelight on ‘Floodgates’, while sweetened backing vocals act as a juxtaposition to Babcock’s ‘down-on-his-luck’ state as the vocalist proclaims that he is “handcuffed by a lack of ambition”. ‘This Place Sucks Ass’ is brought to a frantic close by the 1:10 crash, bang, wallop of ‘Edmonton’. It’s a song that’s powered by a hardcore punk energy, as PUP race through the EP closermwith a violent abrasiveness. It’s almost like all the tension and frustration that’s lead up to this point has culminated into one last detonation of feral yet catchy noise.

2020 most definitely sucks ass but PUP’s new EP doesn’t – at least that’s a good thing to take from this clusterfuck of a year.

Pre-order This Place Suck Ass by Pup here