Canadian rock band PUP’s fourth studio record and their second with Rise Records, “The Unraveling of PUPTheBand,” dropped earlier this month. A departure from their earlier work, this record reflects their success as a band and the ability to do something different creatively — and do it well.
The record followed four singles: “Waiting/Kill Something,” “Robot Writes and Love Song,” “Matilda” and “Totally Fine,” the first of which was released this past November.
“The Unravelling…” is a bit of a concept album: its opening track “Four Chords” sets up the idea of the band as a corporation on the brink of failure before building into a huge crescendo and the angry second song, “Totally Fine.”
The “band as corporation” idea continues throughout the album with interludes tracking the descent of the band and disagreements between the board of directors/band members on how to use the remaining studio budget. The idea builds until “PUPTheBand Inc. Is Filing for Bankruptcy,” the final song on the record.
According to frontman Stephan Babcock in an interview with Under the Radar Magazine, “PUPTheBand Inc. Is Filing for Bankruptcy” is a “distillation of the four of our brains and mental states into like three minutes of chaos.”
The record isn’t all about the board of directors concept, though.
“Totally Fine,” the second track, sounds like something out of the solo work of Bomb the Music Industry’s Jeff Rosenstock but … noisier. The lyrics, the heavy guitar, halftime drums and especially the backing vocals provide that garage-punk sound while still having a high production value.
“Robot Writes a Love Song” is an absurdist take on the concept of a robot feeling love. It seems as though the subject of the love song is another computer that crashed, but the writer backed them up.
With some clever lyrics like the mistranslation of “heart” as “aorta” and “You nearly put me in a cardiac arrest,” the song captures the idea of two computers being in love and eventually dying together. It’s absurd, but also emotional.
“Habits” sounds different from the bands’ more traditional punk sound with the addition of other instruments — synths and horns are all over the record.
The record as a whole is creatively different and seems to escape the genre a little more than what they have done in the past. It is less restrained, more chaotic and louder — in a good way.
Maintaining an 84/100 on Metacritic and receiving a 7.8/10 from Pitchfork, “The Unraveling of PUPTheBand” is available on all major streaming services.