PUP is the punk band we need rn


PUP's new album, The Dream Is Over, is streaming now via NPR. I would embed it here but SquareSpace sites aren't super friendly with iframe embeds. Go listen to it!

Most folks first heard PUP a couple years ago, when SideOneDummy released their self-titled debut full-length. They got a lot of attention for being v loud and v noisy and having v cool and gnarly music videos, like this one where all the band members are maimed during a show. I've only seen PUP play once, and no one was maimed, but I assume that was an off night. I assume that they all leave each show with one less limb and regenerate their extremities in the van overnight, because all Canadians have the regenerative powers of lizards, as is common knowledge. 


PUP is a great band to me. They play that type of rowdy-sounding punk rock that is inherently dirty and crunchy, historically confined to basements and other forms of cramped venues which are required by law to have a mysterious layer of grime on the floor, usually performed through amps that are loud enough that guitar distortion becomes its own instrument, and prone to having cans of cheap beer thrown into the air at any given moment. Listening to them reminds me of watching The Menzingers play at The Atlantic in Gainesville, or seeing Red City Radio play at Fest, or being with Less Than Jake when they do weird stuff like play on a boat in the Hudson River that is too crowded and you fear for drunk young people being flung overboard.

This is all impressively transmitted through an album recorded in a studio, and a young band being able to successfully funnel the energy of a live show or even a practice session into the studio should not be taken for granted. PUP doesn't sacrifice melody for noise, either, which is nice; songs off The Dream Is Over have often been stuck in my head over the past couple weeks, and for different reasons. 

There are songs, particularly at the front of the album, that carry over the distressed and desperate vibes from PUP's self-titled album. "If This Tour Doesn't Kill You, I Will," "DVP" and "My Life Is Over And I Couldn't Be Happier" all pretty much fit that bill, because they're all songs that happen extremely fast and without compromise.

But on their first album, I got the impression that PUP was loud and noisy out of pure necessity, presumably because they needed to play loud, noisy punk rock as the only possible vessel to get their points across, to purge whatever anxiety or other emotions they contained from their systems. The Dream Is Over proves that PUP has taken a step from writing loud, noisy punk rock out of necessity to writing loud, noisy punk rock out of choice: They're capable of writing other types of songs, but they'd rather do this. Being loud and noisy is still their most effective tool, but there are tracks here like "The Coast" and "Pine Point" which provide heavily emotional messages through relatively subdued, down-tempo, "mellow" songs. Again, relatively.

The highlight for me is a loudnoisy song near the end of the album. "Can't Win" starts with this gem: "I've been blessed with shit luck / There are some things that'll never change," before later diving into _extreme punk fist-pumping.exe_ this stuff: "I get a little more nervous every day / I just wanna be something / Never thought I'd be nothing at all / And it feels like I can't win / I'm growing up and I'm giving in / And it's starting to hurt." There's a lot of introspection and worry and anxiety here that makes the song a pretty cathartic thing to yell at yourself, not audibly, but just in your head, since you're on the train or whatever. 

Labeling an album as "cathartic" is not an effective method, I find, to get anyone to listen to that album. It's a term overused in describing music, particularly music in the realms of three- or four-letter genre names, but it applies very directly to The Dream Is Over. So forgive me for not finding a more creative thing to say. Maybe I could say the PUP album is ... like ... a feeling that you might feel if you did a cool cannonball into the deep end of the pool but while you're in the air the water is replaced by rattlesnakes and you don't really realize it until you're about to make contact with the first snake. Your heart rate starts going so fast that your arms get numb and stuff.

PUP - The Dream Is Over - stream
PUP - The Dream Is Over - vinyl