By Charlie Zaillian · April 05, 2022

Formed in 2010, Toronto foursome PUP has forged a reputation as one of North America’s most beloved pop-punk bands. They’ve gotten attention from the hard-rock cognoscenti over at Kerrang!, Guitar, and Guitar World, and been nominees and winners of their home country’s Polaris Prize and Juno awards. The crossover appeal PUP has managed is partially explained by its mosh-worthy, group-singalong hooks; fiery riffs and solos; and the breakneck pace of which they deliver them. As the band has climbed the ladder from small clubs to big halls and traded its van for a bus, an audible sense of camaraderie has colored all of its work; across their decade-plus career, PUP has never had a member change. But the foursome’s ace-in-the-hole is its cheery nihilism: an apt reflection of the emotionally-open generation from which they came, and the often-hopeless-feeling surroundings they’re growing up in.

All of this leads us to PUP’s fourth LP The Unraveling Of..., a joint release between Universal Music Canada and the band’s own Little Dipper label. Unraveling‘s garish, outrageous cover art is an apt reflection of the maximalist sounds therein. The band seems to have a sense of sheepishness at what it’s managed, but now they’ve been given the keys to record for five whole weeks in a secluded house with a producer (Peter Katis) known for big-name bands like Interpol and The National—what else is there to do but make its biggest, no-holds-barred, kitchen-sink sonic bonanza to date?

Unraveling‘s loose thematic throughline about crashing the corporate world takes the piss at the absurdity of “selling out” in these economically fallow times. (The 12-song collection’s full title is The Unraveling of PUPTHEBAND, and is punctuated with intermittent theatrical skits in which the band recasts itself as its own “board of directors.”) Though verging on a bit bombastic at times, the tunes never suffer for it. The raucous “Totally Fine” and Weezer-esque “A Robot Writes A Love Song” are pure punk-pop ear candy, while “Grim Reaping” takes the fullest advantage of PUP’s newfound resources, emptying a full horn section onto its existing guitar-bass-drums canvas.

Production choices and overarching concepts aside, PUP’s winning recipe is 49% snark, 51% heart—and nowhere is this clearer than on Unraveling‘s most earnest track, “Matilda.” An epic paean to a beloved guitar that frontman Stefan Babcock played onstage for years but eventually upgraded from when it could no longer stay in tune, its lyrical personification of an inanimate object recalls Canadian punk poet laureate John K. Samson of the Weakerthans at his best, and seems like potential content for a future Pixar tear-jerker. PUPTHEBAND: The Movie, anyone?

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