Despite everyone’s unique and often contrasting ideals and ideologies, it’s likely that there’s one thing the majority of the population detests; fraudulent motivational platitudes. Cliched and generally awful expressions such as ‘Good things that comes to those who wait’ and ‘Time heals all wounds’. We all know that such expressions and aphorisms are nothing more than a jumble of irritating words that are void of all logic. However, if there’s one expression that’s worthy of the accolade of the worst of all time it’s this classic statement - ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade’. It’s a skin crawling statement, one that your mum may plaster on the living room wall. However, when you dismantle such an expression, there’s something to be found of merit; use your setbacks and frustrations to help fuel your endeavours. One such band who has done this is Toronto's premiere punk powerhouse Pup.
Since their humble beginnings, the group has been plagued with issues and hindrances. From the usual setbacks that bands face to almost having their career wiped out after Stefan Babcock (Vocals) literally shredded his vocal chords. However, such threats of impending doom only acted as the fuel required to drive the band to the destination that they are currently at, with their last record The Dream Is Dead standing as less than subtle nod to Stefan’s predicament. Despite such issues, Pup’s respective sound has remained one that has resonated a sense of jovial and sardonic optimism. It’s the sonic equivalent of speeding down a moonlight road with your friends whilst cans of cheap beer roll around in the backseat, racing away from the horrors of life. Morbid Stuff continues this trend, only this time the car is speeding towards a cliff.
As the moniker implies, Morbid Stuff is a far more darker and nihilistic offering than it’s predecessors. It’s an intense, concerning journey into the depths of Babcock’s mind, one that’s occupied by the demon’s of severe depression and anxiety. Lyrically, and often musically, it’s a far more raw and emotionally reckoning offering than it’s predecessors. Against this bleak backdrop the elements that made Pup so appealing in the first place are only more prominent. The humour, sarcasm, jubilant chaos and sonic scrappiness are only more evident and enjoyable. The record embodies the group’s trademark unison of lyrical nihilistic hopelessness and sonic optimism and joy, taking everything that made their last two records haplessly enjoyable and raising the intensity.
The record wastes no time subtly addressing it’s subject matter. Whereas The Dream Is Dead opened the gradient that was ‘If This World Doesn’t Kill You, I Will’, the title track and opener on this record sets the scene bluntly. “I was bored as fuck, sitting around and thinking all this morbid stuff”, sings Babcock. Lyrically and sonically, it’s a fantastic statement of this intent for this record, with the jangly fret work and drunken choir of gang vocals prancing around lyrics pondering self loathing and mental fatigue. It’s a record of pure nihilistic misery cloaked in a guise of jovial punk hyperactivity, quivering with both excitement and uncontrollable, life ruining anxiety.
Despite Pup’s collective ability to conjure flesh ripping hooks, the level of relatability within this record is unparalleled. With it’s fatigued folk strings that explode into frustrated punk sensibilities, the deep dive into the abyss that is self loathing and hopelessness that is ‘Scorpion Hill’ is destined to be one of Pup’s biggest songs live and the mental outburst and tantrum that is ‘Free At Last’ is potentially one of biggest singalongs the group have ever constructed. Morbid Stuff even see’s Pup toe the lines of different genres with this record to truly animate the frustration within this record, with the corrugated iron hardcore strings of the aptly named ‘Full Blown Meltdown’ standing as the groups most violent and reckless track to date . Despite it’s constant humorous and intentional juxtaposition, the record comes to a close with the sobering and sombre ‘City’. Like the moment of clarity following a mental break or panic attack, it’s the moment where the dust has settled and you’re forced to evaluate the bleakness of live in the cold light of day without the influence of mania or shivering energy. This is the moment where you realise the bleakness at the heart of Morbid Stuff. It’s as hallowing as it is crucial.
In all, Morbid Stuff is Pup’s most hyperactive, crucial, excitable, diverse and concerning record to date. However, despite how excellent this record may be, it’s cultural importance can’t be understated. In an age where poor mental health is running rife through our scene, it’s a brave and crucial message from an act who are choosing to battle their demons in the public eye. It’s undoubtedly going to cause a ruckus from whatever speakers it’s playing from, but the key success of this record is going to be it’s ability to open the tables for more public discussions on mental health and how we approach it as a society. With this in mind, this may be the most important punk record of this year. A must listen.
Morbid Stuff is out April 5th via Rise Records / Little Dipper