Artist: PUP
Album: PUP
Genres: Punk Rock, Alternative Rock
Label: SideOneDummy

It’s hard to contextualize a band on their debut album. A genre listing could mean so many things. What does punk mean, especially if they are going pop? Does it mean pop-punk in today’s sense of The Wonder Years and State Champs? Does it mean nods to Drive-Thru Records, New Found Glory and the like? Is it more along the lines of The Offspring and 90s skater-punk melodies?

From the opening chords and lyrics of PUP’s self-titled album, something unusual was happening. Not quite math rock, the opening rhythm is distinct, and be comparable to something form Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile or King Crimson’s In The Court of The Crimson King, but then the vocals come in, and the musical dust settles on what PUP really are: amazing.

The choruses of each track are shout-out sing-alongs, simple melodies anyone will have memorized by their second listen, but not shouts in the sense of a man who can’t sing. No, PUP can sing their hearts out and change musical moods on a dime, and they do with the ease of a band that has been doing this for fifteen years, not a debut album seeing an American release. I find myself feeling like I’m in the music video to a skateboarding VHS from 1994 while driving to these tracks, like I’m playing Crazy Taxi to punk rock in the early 2000s, and like I’m in a basement show all at the same time.

The second track, “Reservoir,” is nowhere near the rhythm adventure of the first song, but when it hits, you’ll sign up for the roller coaster that is the musical diversity of PUP. It’s as though the musicians decided to study up every seminal punk album from 1990 to 2014, take the charm of Motown song writing, add some spice from broken time signature barriers, put it in a blender, and spit memorable but personal lyrics on the top of it. “You’re sinking like a stone / And I’m letting go / And I will stay afloat.” When the lyrics get the most tender, the delivery gets harsher, and it’s something I’ve quickly grown fond of.

Nearly every song stands out in some way. “Dark Days” sounds like an island dance theme, while songs like “Yukon” are close to straight-forward soul songs. The guitar solo shines on “Yukon” as a set of time where someone is playing devastingly fast guitar, but not for a single moment forgetting that it’s the duty of the solo to keep the melody intact; the chaos of the final chorus shows both restraint and a balls-out power most bands never produced. Every band member signs at one point or another; the held back melodic bassline of “Mabu” goes against the overly crunchy tone on most tracks, and there’s a single drum fill in the second verse of that song – you’ll know it when you hear it – where a swift roll goes left to right on the set in a perfect emphasis of everything that every musician is doing.

I normally prefer to trash on music in reviews, for it’s much easier to say what is wrong with something than what is right with it. I can honestly say that, having listened to this album more than forty times in the past week, it is a beautiful entry in what will hopefully be a long output from PUP. At times, it recalls Say Anything’s eclectic …Is a Real Boy, but often goes into the punk territory of Against Me! or a breath of straight-forward pop. Strong debuts by anyone are hard to come by, but the page PUP finds itself on deserves to be more than dog-eared. This album is entitled to more than your year-end list or a short conversation of “have you heard this band?”

PUP’s debut full-length album is a harrowingly bold, fearlessly diverse, flawless album.

Review by: Dan Bogosian (Twitter)

Dan Bogosian

I finished school with a music theory degree. Before I finished school, I was a janitor. You really should apologize to all the janitors you've ever had. You hurt them. Seriously. You did.

But, now that we've cleared that up and you called your high school janitor, know that I quit being a janitor to pursue writing about music. So here I am, and here you are, and hey how are you?
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