PUP frontman Stefan Babcock makes his lyrical mood known from the get-go on the Toronto quartet’s new album, Morbid Stuff. His snotty vocal delivery on the titular album opener clamors, “I was bored as fuck/Sitting around and thinking all this morbid stuff/Like if everyone I’ve slept with is dead and I got stuck/On death and dying and obsessive thoughts that won’t let up/It makes me feel like I’m about to throw up.”
And try this from the very next song, “Kids”: “Just like the kids, I’ve been navigating my way/Through the mind-numbing reality of a godless existence/Which, at this point in my hollow and vapid life/Has erased what little ambition I have left.”
It’s pretty clear Babcock and his bandmates — bassist Nestor Chumak, drummer Zack Mykula and guitarist Steve Sladkowski — are not happy with the state of the world and their place in it at this particular moment in history. But you’d never know it based on the jubilant music that surrounds Babcock’s bummed-out lyrics. Sladkowski and Babcock’s knifing guitar lines bob and weave in-between fizzy sing-along choruses, while the sneakily subtle rhythm section anchors songs that doesn’t stray too far from the Pop Punk approach that marked PUP’s first two efforts: 2013’s self-titled debut and 2016’s breakthrough follow-up, The Dream Is Over.
That’s not to say PUP (which apparently stands for Pathetic Use of Potential) hasn’t evolved. Album closer “City” turns down the volume in a fuzzy ode to loves lost — or is it a commentary aimed at the band’s hometown of Toronto? Or maybe both? “Full Blown Meltdown,” on the other hand, teeters on the edge of oblivion, as Babcock rages about inequality, mental instability and more, culminating in a maelstrom of guitar riffage that wouldn’t be out of place on a hardcore Metal record.
Three albums in, PUP has become as reliable as their buddy Jeff Rosenstock — a band that, like Rosenstock, melds DIY Punk aesthetics, Springsteen-esque working-class concerns (and occasional grandiosity) and humor as successfully as any outfit of its ilk. Thus, per Morbid Stuff’s liner notes, this thank you shouldn’t come as a surprise: “(Thanks) Jeff Rosenstock for workshopping some of these dumb songs with us, and more importantly, for being such a positive light in the face of the endless darkness that is existence.”
PUP performs Wednesday, May 22 at Bogart's with Ratboys and Casper Skulls. Click here for tickets/more show info.