Though I mentioned in my “Kids” track review that pop-punk is one of those genres where a song is either rad or not rad, not so much something that needed a bunch of explanation, PUP’s Morbid Stuff transcends that idea—it transcends its genre and everything the band has done up until this point, easily achieving one of the strongest rock records of 2019. This LP presents a band that’s both more effective at storytelling and infectious melodies, more emotionally piercing and relatable; tighter than almost anyone touring right now.
The beating heart of the thing is certainly “Scorpion Hill,” the band’s most complex and arresting song yet. It paints the tale of a man suffering on the train as his world falls apart around him, losing his job, and he wondering who he is and how he can care for his child.
After the slow acoustic intro, the band stirs up a semi-typical PUP tune with a driving verse and slow chorus, but the road-map isn’t so simple. The lyric “and I’m working the night shift, ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL” bursts to the surface acting as another, achingly slow hook, before the band kicks it back into gear, eventually screeching to a halt with “and i can’t pretend to know how this will end”—no big rock ending, no victory, just uncertainty. It’s Springsteen in its sprawl and emo in its darkness as “I found the gun, it was buried beneath piles of clothes, in the room where your son sleeps,” and other lyrics like it add nuance and depth to the broken protaganist.
Though the band still wields anger towards exes and others, as “Scorpion Hill” showcases, this is a band more apt at tackling the circumstances of their lives, and the inner strife that makes living so hard. “Full Blown Meltdown” most obviously points its gun at lead singer Stefan Babcock, going as far as pinpointing the pointlessness of the music itself: “I’m just surprised the world isn’t sick of grown men whining like children.” Throughout, the band is self-critical. The titular phrase itself refers to the kind of weird shit that pops into Babcock’s head, he poses the proverbial “why am I like this?” on the very first song and that kind of thinking underpins the whole work.
When launching digs at others, the band is also funnier and more effective than they’ve ever been. “See You At Your Funeral,” is basically “yeah I’m better now than when we were together, also go fuck yourself,” but it remains relatively light in comparison to some of the over-the-top anger of their last album. Babock quibs about how he tried vegan food and started buying organic, a goofy 2019 version of a glow up.
Luckily, this music doesn’t become too weighty. An algorithm couldn’t have imagined a more PUP song than “Kids” and the finale “City” fittingly mirrors the close of their last album “Pine Point,” with the idea of “this place is tough” again sending the listener off. So, PUP still knows themselves they’re just more grown-up, but not so grown up that they’ve lost their heart.