PUP – PUP (Album Review)

by Steven Spoerl

PUP cover art

Toronto punk upstarts PUP have been building buzz steadily over the past year and they finally seem set to explode with the release of their self-titled debut. Prior to being PUP, the band had been playing out and releasing music under the name Topanga, so named after the character in Boy Meets World. After Disney acquired the rights to that particular show and planned a revamp, the band put the name to rest and became PUP. The re-branding seems to have ignited a fire in them that’s shown no signs of coming close to being put out.

After receiving coverage from nearly every major independent-music publication, continuing to make all the right connections, and releasing the year’s best music video, PUP has finally arrived (albeit currently only in their native Canada). PUP, like METZ before it, continues a trend in fiercely aggressive Canadian noise-punk imports. Unlike METZ, however, the band reigns things in every now and again throughout the record’s ten tracks, displaying enviable songwriting prowess and an unexpected vulnerability. That vulnerability is part of what makes tracks like “Yukon” so memorable; they’re distinguishable moments that add up to a substantial whole.

PUP‘s staunch refusal to present a collection of tracks that bleed into each other is admirable and helps the band stand out from many of their counterparts. This refusal allows them to put an emphasis on their lyricism, which is another one of the band’s more unique traits. Even with all the standard “Oh-oh-oh” sections peppered throughout PUP, the band manages to deliver memorable couplets like “and when my eyes were closed/you left me miserable… in the morning” before the explosive chorus on “Cul-de-sac” and the almost threatening “I guess you live and you learn/I guess you’ll get what you deserve” on “Reservoir”,  as well as entire songs of memorable and intelligent lines (“Dark Days” is particularly strong).

While PUP is undoubtedly formidable when the band’s gang mentality is on full display, it’s at its best when it flies off the rails and is spearheaded by a single personality. “Reservoir”, the lead-off single and album highlight, is the strongest example of this. There’s a ferocious and manic energy driving that song throughout its verse sections that make the brief group vocals on the explosive chorus even more resonant and effective. PUP’s untapped a rare kind of magic with that formula and they utilize it smartly throughout the record, accelerating and easing off at will to create a frenzied and somewhat chaotic pace that suits PUP perfectly.

“Factories” brings the record to an effective close, providing a sense of completion while also being energetic enough to leave listeners anxiously waiting for more. PUP is one hell of a first entry in what looks to be a promising career. Despite not currently being available in the US, you can stream the whole thing over at the band’s bandcamp. For those looking for a briefer introduction to the band and their aesthetic, the video for “Reservoir” is posted below and, as hinted at earlier, it’s fucking incredible. Keep an eye out for a US release sometime soon and make sure to check out the band when they swing through Chicago on 11/25 to play the Empty Bottle with Heartbreaking Bravery favorites Audacity and Hunters.