Given their history of hyperbolic, tongue-in-cheek prose, it’s safe to assume many of PUP’s lyrics are exaggerations; after all, how literally can you take a band who once began an album with the sentiment “if this tour doesn’t kill you, then I will,” and still haven’t broken up? But even despite their hyperbolic tendencies, the Toronto punks have imparted one overarching message that you can take word-for-word: This place sucks ass.
Oftentimes, those ghastly places PUP refer to feel equal parts physical and mental. “How long will self-destruction be alluring?” frontman Stefan Babcock hollered on their 2019 album Morbid Stuff, as if begging for a sign that he’s still on the right track with this whole band thing. “It’s good for business, and baby, business is booming!”
With their new album THE UNRAVELING OF PUPTHEBAND, out Friday (April 1st), PUP are well-aware of the extent to which they’ve commodified their own self-destruction. “I spent every cent of the label money,” Babcock murmurs in the album’s schmaltzy introduction. But if Morbid Stuff threatened to burn everything to the ground, then here, PUP are gleefully playing in the debris.
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Location has never played as crucial of a role in recording for PUP as it did with THE UNRAVELING. The quartet — Babcock, guitarist Steve Sladkowski, bassist Nestor Chumak, and drummer Zack Mykula — spent five weeks in summer 2021 recording with producer Peter Katis at an eerie, gothic-style house in Connecticut, where a leaky roof and actual living bats in the attic badgered their late-night sessions.
The five of them virtually never left the house during that time, only further contributing to the album’s themes of impending anarchy. THE UNRAVELING marks the first time PUP have heavily implemented instruments outside of the typical guitar, bass, and drum kit setup. With trombones, trumpets, and keys juxtaposing their mosh-ready breakdowns, it’s refreshing to see the band play outside their comfort zone.
“We started making choices because we thought they were good or funny or too dumb to not see through,” Babcock writes in an essay accompanying the record. “We stopped giving a shit about radio or having three choruses or adhering to our old obsessions and rules about what makes a song ‘PUP.’”