Hey guys, welcome to the new monthly feature of my blog, Stuff I Like. While I started this project to share my short fiction, I’ve realized a couple things in the past few months. First, nobody can hope to run a successful blog by posting once a month, and second, a lot of what I’m writing is pretty bleak and I’d like to break up the Nihilism with a little bit of positivity. So every month I’ll drop a short review about something I like. Maybe a movie or a book or a place or a person. Today it’s a band.
For a long time I defined myself by the music I listened to. Growing up in South America it was pretty difficult to stay up to date on what was going on in the music world, so whenever I made it back to the states it was my mission to become an expert on the underground. I spent years watching punk rock documentaries and listening to everything I could get ahold of. The philosophies of Ian McKay and Henry Rollins seeped into the core of what I believe about ethics and art and I was excited by every new band I heard.
Then I started doing stand-up comedy. I can’t play an instrument, I was never going to be in a band. But suddenly I could get on stage and share my opinions like my heroes. The rush of writing something then testing it out in front of an audience was intoxicating and all I wanted in the world was to get better at it. So pretty quickly, I traded in my music playlists for podcasts and band docs for stand-up specials.
About a year ago I looked up and I had NO IDEA what was going on in music.
What’s more, the constant drone of podcasts and stand-up was beginning to have a negative effect on my own work. I’m a big believer that consuming good art (and different kinds of art) inspires good art. So I made a conscious effort to get back into music.
Turns out Spotify makes that pretty easy. Within a week PUP, short for Pathetic Waste of Potential, appeared on my weekly discover list and blew me away.
Formed in 2010 under their original name “Topanga” these 4 punks from Toronto blend pop sensibilities with hardcore punk and a dash of progressive rock guitars to create a barrage of incredibly heavy yet melodic rock n roll.
Nobody’s re-inventing the wheel here. A PUP album is going to have all the songs about love and cars and fights and depression you’d expect from a bunch of 20-somethings touring in a shitty van. What sets them apart is the pure unadulterated joy that radiates from every note.
It’s a feeling any number of soulless pop punk bands tried and failed to fake when I was a teenager. Nothing feels fake about PUP. With every riff you believe that Stefan Babcock (lead vocals, guitar), Nestor Chumak (bass), Zack Mykula (drums), and Steve Sladkowski (guitar) are 100% in it together.
Their first couple albums, PUP and The Dream is Over, showcase the hunger and ferocity of 4 kids who’ve been fighting since their teens to make it in an industry that’s become nearly impossible to make a living in. This struggle is highlighted beautifully in the animated music video for their song Dark days.
I’ve watched that video probably 10 times and it never fails to get me a little choked up. In fact all of their videos are fantastic, thanks in large part to their partnership with director Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux, who I believe has directed all them.
There third album Morbid stuff dropped April
5, and has already been heralded as their best effort so far.
Morbid stuff is aptly named. With lyrics like “I hope the world explodes, I hope that we all die” PUP could have easily succumbed to pop-punk self-pity, but Babcock’s wry wit and the damned catchiness of the tunes balances out the melancholy perfectly.
PUP is currently, and possibly perpetually, on tour, so if you get the chance go check them out live. Believe me, next time they make it to my neck of the woods I certainly will.
I Know I’m pretty late to the party on PUP. They’ve already got a massive fan base and certainly don’t need any help from nerd like me, but if you like punk rock and you haven’t checked these guys out yet, give em a listen and then let me know what you think!