Following the success of 2016’s The Dream Is Over, an album that catapulted PUP from respectable Canadian pop-punks to North American scene superstars, Morbid Stuff was weighted with excitement and ambition. While there was plenty to ring up the excitement in Dream, Morbid Stuff is like taking a rocket to an unknown moon that was just discovered orbiting earth. With sleek and chunky riffs, Stefan Babcock spills anxiety over with rallying cries and quarter-life rage that sets the band in a certain class of their contemporaries like Rozwell Kid, where they can make incredibly fun and upbeat songs that are immediately memorable and occasionally silly but only layering over a very real sense of self-actualization.
Look to the opening track, Babcock sings,
I was bored as fuck
Sitting around and thinking about all this morbid stuff
Like if anyone I’ve slept with is dead, and I got stuck
On death and dying and obsessive thoughts that won’t let up
It’s the sort of matter-of-fact verse that sounds like it ought to be on a record belonging to Modern Baseball, JuiceWRLD, or Sun Kil Moon, but Pup don’t let the depression that mortality brings bog down their songs. It’s a song that seems like it takes joy in the titular “Morbid Stuff.” Throughout the eleven song album, Babcock looks at everything from godless existences, vegan food, and meltdowns. In the tradition of sad songs that sound happy, PUP are fucking kings. Babcock yelps with a sense of certainty that’s unsure if it’s a desperate cry for help or a cackling child rallying against bedtime. Steve Sladkowski’s leads are also part of what make the songs feel so infectious. The first three seconds of “Free At Last” sound like it’s about to be PUP’s take on a Black Sabbath song before launching into modernist pop-punk that’s reminiscent of the Ramones’ immediacy and American Football’s precision.
Perhaps the joy in PUP’s music is that it all sounds like it’s a rage against all of the sickening thoughts that plague Babcock. Morbid Stuff is an apt title, because that’s what he dwells on the most, but the album’s mission statement comes in “Free At Last:” “Just cause you’re sad again/It doesn’t make you special at all.” The fun is almost overlined by all of the sadness, because the next song is called “See You at the Funeral,” but Babcock assures us not to really worry towards the end of the second verse, as he sings, “I’ve always been a little masochistic.” There’s a worry that some of the drugs and alcohol that he seems to medicate with may not just be little releases but the coping mechanism that he’s holding onto. “Scorpion Hill” starts with a “Home on the Range”-like diddy, before launching into the manic pace that we’ve come to expect, and as he talks about sitting drunk he delivers some of the best lyrics of the bands career:
If the world is gonna burn
Everyone should get a turn to light it up
Down and out, I’ve been on the rocks
I’ve been having some pretty dark thoughts
Yeah, I like them a lot.
There’s tons of horrible things, but why shouldn’t we take some joy in the horror? We’re living the ultimate terror show always.
As PUP has graduated from songs about getting trashed on tour to contemplating their own mortality, there’s no shortage of the fun that songs like “DVP” provided. Morbid Stuff is a champagne-popping, shotgunned-beer of a meditation on all the horror we see as people, and I like it a lot.