By Cole Parkinson
One of the best punk bands of this decade has released their third album after two stellar records.
Of course, I’m talking about PUP (Or Pathetic Use of Potential) from Toronto, Ontario.
After releasing their self-titled debut in October of 2013 and following that up with the even better The Dream is Over in May of 2016, Stefan Babcock, Steve Sladkowski, Nestor Chumak and Zack Mykula have done it again.
Their third album titled Morbid Stuff was released just a few weeks ago on April 5 and let me tell you, if you aren’t listening to PUP yet, it’s time to fix that.
Mixing punk rock, pop punk, indie rock and just straight up rock n’ roll, PUP is one of the best bands Canada has to offer.
The Dream is Over was my favourite release from 2016 and I thought it would be tough to top.
So I guess the question is — did it? I think the jury is still out on that one.
I would argue the newest release is a better album from start to finish, though I do think their sophomore record has a batch of songs that are some of the best PUP has to offer.
While there are a few songs on the previous album I don’t feel the need to listen to every time, Morbid Stuff is a record I feel the need to listen to all 11 tracks every time I throw it on.
And right now, it’s a daily play at the minimum.
Kicking the album off is the title track and it may just be my favourite song on the album.
The guitars are incredibly catchy and the song is so undeniably PUP, though it does sound like a new twist on their sound especially with the slow and soft ending.
The self-deprecating lyrics, the pounding rhythm from the drums and Chumak’s bass playing really stands out.
Another big positive for me is that Sladkowski’s lead guitar playing is fantastic on this track.
‘Kids’ is next and it was the first song released prior to the album coming out.
This one took a while to grow on me and it has the most callbacks to previous albums in my book.
The gang vocals throughout the song and the chorus melody make me think this song could have easily fit in either of the previous two PUP albums.
The second single ‘Free At Last’ threw me through a loop the first time I heard it.
The opening riff is very metal-ish, which caught me off guard quite a bit. Guitar work once again sticks out to me in this track with both the guitar solo and driving chords in the choruses being times to bang your head.
PUP never shy away from lyrics around personal turmoil and ‘See You at Your Funeral’ is all about a nasty breakup.
The song has quite a few funny lyrics that really highlights how Babcock was feeling.
It’s incredibly petty and messed up but every person has felt exactly that in the aftermath.
Of all the songs on Morbid Stuff that point to a new direction for the band, none highlight it more than ‘Scorpion Hill’.
There are straight indie rock vibes before kicking back into a more traditional punk groove throughout the verses and chorus.
It is also my opinion it is PUP’s best storytelling they’ve ever showcased through lyrics and there is no line that showcases PUP more than ‘I’ve been having pretty dark thoughts/I like them a lot’.
The drums in this one are really what drives the song and Mykula may be one of my favourite drummers right now.
His style isn’t particularly flashy but they make each song stick out.
Moving to the halfway point, ‘Closure’ boasts one of my favourite guitar riffs on the album.
PUP, to me, is all about the catchy guitar riffs that draw you in and this one does exactly that.
It may not be the best song on the album but every time the intro riff pops back in, I can’t help but start nodding along.
‘Bloody Mary, Kate and Ashley’ is the catchiest song on the album and definitely reaches more in the pop-punk aspect of sounding songs.
PUP has always been incredibly smart, catchy and fun songwriters and this track demonstrates that on another level.
If you don’t catch yourself singing along to the chorus, there may be something wrong with you.
Every PUP album has a camping anthem and ‘Sibling Rivalry’ covers that territory.
A song about Babcock and his sister’s relationship, this track is one of the top songs on this album.
This is PUP firing on all cylinders with strong musicianship and great lyrics that people can easily relate to.
Up to this point on my first listen, I was thinking there had been a lack of straight forward punk songs and then ‘Full Blown Meltdown’ punched me in the face with the heaviest song PUP has ever released.
This track is just a straight jam from front to back and I can tell you with full confidence it will be best experienced at a PUP show.
I constantly find myself turning up the volume when this track comes on and man, is it a fun two and a half minutes.
“Bare Hands’ is the penultimate song on the record and it is a straight rock song with a great chorus.
Something I’m sure people are picking up on is the fact most of these songs have really catchy choruses and ‘Bare Hands’ continues that trend for PUP.
This one reminds quite a bit of ‘Closure’, it’s not necessarily the best song on the album but damn, I love listening to it.
As we end the album, ‘City’ is the weirdest, slowest and non-sounding PUP song on the entire album.
This is another track that took me a while to appreciate, mainly just because it is so different from anything PUP has done on this album and the previous two.
But then we get to the middle of the song and it warps into this sludgy, guitar-heavy finish that completely tilts the song on its head.
It’s a cool way to end a fantastic album from the boys from Toronto.
I highly recommend checking this album out and if you like what you hear, it’s even more imperative to check out a PUP show.
Both times I’ve seen PUP were absolutely phenomenal shows and there’s nothing better than singing along with hundreds of other fans.
The good news is they are coming back to southern Alberta in the fall, so I’ll see you there.
Favourite tracks — Morbid Stuff, Free At Last, See You at Your Funeral, Sibling Rivalry and Full Blown Meltdown.