Album Review: PUP — ‘Morbid Stuff’
Posted: by The Editor
PUP have cemented themselves as one of the most uniquely marketable, unorthodox, and straight-up FUN bands since their debut self-titled. Combining their high energy live live performances, the combination of figurative language and referential punchlines, and the innate like-ability to sell out a preorder package where the key item is just an inflatable raft with the word “PUP” maybe written on it, PUP are a once in a lifetime band. Their casual approach to the industry came on stronger with their sophomore LP The Dream is Over, titled after Stefan Babcock’s doctor telling him there’s a problem with his vocal cords and that “The dream is over.” PUP demonstrates a snide indifference to the “serious” nature of show business, and with Morbid Stuff they’ve adjusted that lens to focus on the darker corners of the modern world.
Something I really appreciate about PUP’s music is their dynamism. They always have a great distorted tone for the rhythm and a brighter lead guitar that stands out on every single track. I never feel like I’ve heard the same song twice, despite the consistency in the tone across albums. The best example of this dynamism is also my favorite song from the new album, “Scorpion Hill.” The juxtaposition of a gentle intro that crashes into a quick-paced punk anthem is a clever device for PUP, because they subvert expectations fans might have from previous softer songs, like “Pine Point.” I find this especially effective with the refrain and near repetition of the intro melody over the bridge, “I was bursting apart like (the end of the arc/a flame from a spark).”
The narrative that unfolds in this album comes across as nonchalant, as is the nature of PUP, but it touches on some heavy concepts. Like in “Morbid Stuff,” how the slightest things can set us onto a tangent of depressive thoughts that sort of spiral. “Kids” makes me think of the fragile state of maturing, and the anxiety that comes from having to do things on your own with no support (“I had it maxed out, and nothing was working.”) All of these darker impressions of how depression can come from any angle are framed by PUP’s ability to make everything feel hopeful—they’re the underdog that doesn’t stay down, but never reaches the goal.
What I take from this album is that there’s no escaping the absolution of morbid stuff, but how you react is conducive to your agency. Very similar to themes from Kafka’s Before the Law and Metamorphosis, there’s a resignation of our agency in the face of incapability that PUP takes head on. The world looks bleak, and a lot of the time, it just straight up is—the difference that Morbid Stuff expresses is that we can make it good for the short time we’re here, and some things can be pleasant, whether we see them in the heat of the moment or not.
Luciano Ferrara // @LucianoRFerrara
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