Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Album Review: PUP by PUP written by Jon Buitekant

I picked up the PUP album after reading Colin’s Front Bottoms gig review and having listened to about 10 seconds of a random song of theirs on Spotify. A bit of a gamble but I’m so glad I did. Here’s why.

These four lads from Canada make one hell of a noise. Frenetic, diverse and horribly addictive, PUP have made one of the breakout albums of the year with their self-titled EP. I say breakout album of the year, it was actually released last October but a successful couple of tours supporting The Front Bottoms and The Menzingers has really helped them reach a wider audience.

Childhood friends Zack, Nestor, Stefan and Steve have been playing together for years including a ‘shitty ska band’ they formed during their high school years.  They’re certainly not a shitty ska band anymore. In fact it’s hard to pin down one genre in which PUP really belong. Technically they are punk rock but you’ll also hear straight up rock songs and punk pop. That’s one of the things which make PUP great, especially on the first listen when you’re not quite sure what might be next.

‘Guilt Trip’ kicks off the album and sets the tone for the first half of the album.  The pulsing drums, squealing guitars and distorted bass open the track with the catchy guitar hook taking off soon after. The pace is great, winding slowly through the main verses before ramping up the pace with explosions of aggressive guitar playing and vocals. The song culminates in a hectic minute of screaming and guitar thrashing before ending abruptly and leaving you instantly wanting more.

The second track, and my favourite, ‘Reservoir’ really showcases one of PUPs strengths. Frontman Stefan Babcocks vocals soar and growl all over this record but this is by no means a solo vocal effort. Gang vocals from all 4 members deliver a big punch to PUPs sound and this is where I think they’re at their best. ‘Reservoir’ is a prime example of this being used to great effect. The main refrain ‘meet me at the reservoir’ is repeated in this song and is catchy as hell. I can imagine this song is ridiculously popular at their live shows and must go down a storm.

PUP take the tempo down a notch or two after ‘Reservoir’ with the next few songs, ‘Mabu’, ‘Never Try’ and ‘Yukon’, but this is by no means a bad thing. ‘Yukon’ in particular is a brilliant track and proof that PUP have another trick up their sleeves. A slowed down, vocal driven song sees PUP depart from their usual punk roots to something a bit more rock orientated and it totally pays off. This is a band that isn’t afraid to go out of their comfort zone by the sounds of things which is great both for the listener and the band itself. Just as you think the song is winding down another curveball is thrown your way as the band crash and rattle through the last minute of the track just to remind you they can really step it up a notch when they want.  

As good as the first 6 songs are of this album, the following 3 kind of feel a bit like filler material. I’m not sure if this is because a lot of the other songs beforehand are so good or if they were maybe last minute additions to flesh out the album but they just don’t feel quite the same. Nevertheless they are still listenable and not tracks I would skip but it kind of feels like they don’t fit in. ‘Back Against the Wall’ is one of these tracks but I can imagine it being great as a live performance so perhaps I am being harsh. Thankfully the album closer ‘Factories’ reminds you just how good PUP are and why you’re going to listen through again. I’ve read other reviews that describe PUP as ‘if Weezer had made a punk record’ and I can understand that, especially on this track. Lyrically it’s one of the stronger efforts and the musical outro to the track really rounds the album off nicely.

That’s why I’m glad I bought this album on impulse. It’s not far away from being a superb record, a couple of songs in the same vein as the opening tracks towards the end of the album would have really helped. In spite of this PUP are still a great band with an edge. Great musicianship, heartfelt vocals and an album with enough catchy hooks and lyrics to stay in your head.

Apparently PUP stands for ‘Pathetic use of Potential’ according to the band. I hardly think so.

Buy the album here: https://puptheband.bandcamp.com/

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