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PUP Has Plenty More ‘Morbid Stuff’ to Go Around on This Place Sucks Ass EP

The 17-minute release compresses the Toronto punk band’s infectious feel-bad energy into 5 new ragers and one cover

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PUP Has Plenty More &#8216;Morbid Stuff&#8217; to Go Around on <i>This Place Sucks Ass</i> EP

For PUP, a band whose breakout album begins with the all-time great kickoff line “If this tour doesn’t kill you then I will,” the only thing worse than being trapped on tour for a year is being trapped without the possibility of touring for a year. Innumerable great young bands have seen their touring careers stalled by the pandemic, and PUP is one of them: Instead of seizing the momentum of 2019’s phenomenal Morbid Stuff with another round of shows, the Toronto punk band is trapped at home and getting their aggression out with a characteristically misanthropic EP, This Place Sucks Ass. Titled after a routine tour refrain-turned-pandemic commentary (“at this moment in time, it feels so fucking real—wherever you are, it sucks ass right now,” frontman Stefan Babcock explains), the 17-minute release compresses the band’s infectious feel-bad punk energy into five new ragers and one cover.

Of course, feeling trapped is the hallmark emotion of any PUP song—trapped in a bad relationship, trapped in a city that’s slowly poisoning you, just trapped in your own anxiety-ridden head. The latter topic provides fodder for opener “Rot,” an anthemic fist-pumper with lyrics that read like therapy notes: Babcock rants about rotting on the inside because of incessant negative thoughts before concluding: “It’s just a part of me / I can’t get away from.” The similarly spirited “Nothing Changes” is as melodic as anything PUP has done. The lyrics describe post-breakup listlessness and malaise, but the central tension in PUP’s music is that these qualities have no bearing on the song’s hooky exuberance: The track is anything but lethargic, and its unexpected coda, with interlocking layers of vocal harmonies, is one of PUP’s sweetest moments.

The only real misfire here is a misplaced cover of Grandaddy’s early classic “A.M. 180.” It’s an affectionate rendition, revving up the tempo and swapping out the song’s R2-D2 synths for overdriven guitar, but PUP’s pummelling aggression is an awkward match for Grandaddy’s cerebral melodicism, and the result doesn’t quite fit among these Morbid Stuff rejects.

And speaking of that 2019 album, it’s either impressive or alarming that PUP titled the album Morbid Stuff and still had enough songs about death and death-related anxiety left over to fill half an EP. The band’s explanation is that several of these songs were left off the record because they were deemed “too frenetic or too unhinged.” That reasoning tracks when it comes to the hypochondriac anthem “Anaphylaxis,” which proves PUP can even make a song about a terrifying allergic reaction into an endearing outburst of thrashing riffs and gang vocals, and it certainly applies to the minute-long screamer “Edmonton,” in which Babcock exorcises drunken guilt for missing a friend’s funeral while at a show.

Then there’s “Floodgates,” an unstable rocker that seems to describe a near-death car accident. “Whenever I think of dying / It only makes me laugh,” Babcock concludes. True. Or it makes him write a song.


Zach Schonfeld is a freelance writer and journalist based in New York. He contributes regularly to Paste, Pitchfork, VICE, and other publications. Previously, he was a senior writer for Newsweek. His first book comes out in November 2020.

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