Review Summary: You’re drunk, PUP. Go home.
PUP have built a career on the knife edge between order and chaos. Their yin
of snotty disheveled punk needs
of candy-coated pop, for it's that elusive balance between accessibility and aggression which has sustained the group as acclaimed genre-darlings for almost a decade. What happens, then, when yin
fucks off on vacation and yang
finally moves out and gets a real job? The Unraveling of PUPTheBand.
The foundational twin pillars upon which the Toronto 4-piece have built everything
topple over on their 4th full length record. In their place: an unholy hodgepodge of tie-dye ooze and overdriven fog. One page out of the psychedelic playbook, a footnote or two from noise rock and a crash course on Rosenstock-ian showmanship inform Stefan and co. as they continue down the increasingly eclectic path they paved on 2019’s Morbid Stuff
. The resultant journey is a jittery, joyous, glorious, gleaming mess
: substantially less coherent than their previous outings, but no less endearing.
Typically atypical melodies lurch all over this 12-track acid-trip, haphazard and carefree a la the adorable “Robot Writes A Love Song” and not-so-relentless “Relentless” - all soft pastel hues and beaming, bashful refrains. They’ve much in common with the stone-cold bangers that put PUP on the map, except now they're cloaked beneath a wall of purple haze - less frantic firework displays, more softly simmering slow burners. The newfound sm0k
is a fitting companion to the usual suspects - the decay of withered companionship (“Matilda”) and odes to silently fading away (“Grim Reaping”) - presenting the lads’ brand of self-loathing and ever-relatable angst in softer, snazzier clothes. Inevitably, Unraveling’s
cozier tunes need more time to breathe, ingraining themselves into one's noggin only after successive listens. The fluorescent tendrils of “Four Chords” and “Habits” diffuse at a snail's pace compared to the immediacy of a “DVP” or “Kids”, lacking the delectable crunch
of PUP’s past works but paying dividends if you’re willing to invest in their newfound pursuit of pillowy, sky-high vibes.
Monstrous, deformed riffs occasionally break up the patient pacing, tempered by the band’s present penchant for a darker side of heavy: see the brooding “Cutting Off the Corners”, cracking open with distortion at its midpoint, or the bass-forward sludge-a-thon of “Waiting”, generously bubbling over with feedback freakouts and landmine drum fills as required. The reliable yin-yang
duo make a welcome return to the spotlight when needed, fueling the anthemic lead-single “Totally Fine” and immaculate “PUPTHEBAND Inc. is Filing for Bankruptcy”, the latter containing some of the most ambitious and captivating instrumentation the band have ever put to wax. That the two most traditionally ‘PUP’ tracks are Unraveling’s
best cuts is hardly surprising, but does little to cover up the subtle growing pains present in the group’s latest creative shift. Whilst not a bad trip, the muddied production and more reserved stylings beset the record with a dithering sluggishness that’s hard to shake. Expect anything as snappy or well-realized as a “Sleep In the Heat” or “Scorpion Hill” and you’ll be disappointed; embrace the murk
, however, and you’ll be rewarded with the most interesting shakeup of the band’s career.
PUP have already been there
and done that
. Their last 2 LPs are quintessential genre-touchstones, likely to remain so for years to come, but perhaps what’s more exciting is their willingness to throw it all away. Unraveling’s
hallucinogenic hallmarks need refinement, yet what they spell for PUPTHEBAND Inc.’s intentions leaves me beaming like an idiot. They aren't done with us yet, still able and willing to cake the wall with new shit
until something sticks or the whole damn
building caves in, whichever is sooner. Their quest to find the next ying-yang worth raving about is one I’ll gladly join them on. When the results are as fun as The Unraveling of PUPTheBand.
, it’s rather hard to turn them down.