on pup + the worst days of my life
a boring essay about pup
I write a lot about the music of moments of my life. This newsletter is nearly entirely about the way music interacts with me, but it's hard to write about PUP and I've been listening to PUP a lot lately so I want to write about PUP. Here goes.
I feel really precious about few bands– The Weakerthans, Florist, Self Defense Family– but most stuff I consider important to me is easy to contextualize and distance myself from emotionally. The Menzingers are one of the most important bands of my life, but I don't feel precious about them. I'm choking back a self deprecating joke about beer punk just writing that, but they've made music I've lived a lot of my social life to. On the surface I think PUP should occupy a similar space, they're just the band I live the worst days of my life to.
Almost exactly two years ago I spun out on the highway driving back to my parents' house from Chicago. I was listening to "Floodgates" by PUP. I swore I'd never drive my mom's car in the winter again.
The first six months I lived in Philadelphia were spent staring at the wall of my nearly windowless apartment, day in and day out, trying to want to be in law school. All the while I listened to so much PUP that my boyfriend at the time told me he liked it better when I was unhappy because at least I listened to PUP quieter. He hated "The Coast" and I hated him.
The first time I ever truly got angry I didn't really know what to do so I wandered around my Chicago neighborhood in the cold and listened to PUP then cleaned my room and listened to PUP then got drunk and listened to PUP.
A Morbid Stuff branded beer was the last remnant of an abusive relationship left in my last apartment– the last place we ever lived together. It had more windows, but it felt even worse somehow. I finally threw the light pink can away and it felt like some kind of liberation.
I think it makes sense to gravitate to PUP in moments of kind-of-anger, kind-of-self-loathing, kind-of-just-chaos. I don't think I have a special relationship with their music. I engage with it in ways a lot of people do. That whole thing– the chaos and the anxiety and the anger– is what Stefan Babcock's on about all the time, or that's what the messaging around the band is at least. I don't know the guy personally. For a band that I think does the external parts of being a musician in a really fun and charming way, reading about PUP during a big press push feels almost as borderline exploitative as reading about Phoebe Bridgers or Mitski.
Earlier this year they put out a record and I listened to one song a lot. Like the Joyce Manor album from this year, I don't know that I needed the albums to be that great as a singular piece of art. I think, for me, the scale just changes especially once you're a punk band with two albums I consider perfect.* Of course, it would be nice for them to put out more Perfect Albums, but that's not really what I'm focused on. The only thing that matters past that point is how the album adds to the place in my life that the band holds. THE UNRAVELING OF PUPTHEBAND, despite its very loud title, didn't immediately grab me and I was probably harsh on it when we talked about it on my podcast. I don't think anything was really grabbing me at the beginning of the year, so I guess this is my formal retraction of whatever I said back then. I'm not gonna go back and listen.
As soon as I started thinking about going home for the holidays my brain was suddenly prepared for the new PUP album. Being in my parents' house will do that. It's something of a comfort, I guess, when I'm feeling a little angsty, but not so regressive that I'm clinging to the shit I listened to in high school. (I never liked the cover of PUP's self titled album that was all over tumblr when I was in high school so I didn't listen to them until later. This is college music for me, if you're keeping a timeline.)
I've landed on some thoughts on the album, finally. I listened to "Robot Writes a Love Song" the most this year, but I think it's not the best song on the album. "Habits" is probably my favorite and could go head to head with any perfect PUP song. "Matilda" is great. "Waiting" is perfectly snotty. I, personally, think it's just a great album and I'm thrilled to have arrived there.
I think maybe I don't know how to write about PUP because they feel like obviously one of the best punk bands we have. More than being more technically interesting than a lot of bands in a similar vein, I think they succeed in the thing punk bands have to do to be great. No great punk band is great because they make the best music. I think PUP does make great music, but I think they also have a self contained world. The best music videos of any band on this side of 2010. Extensively curated merch items– zines and comics and photo books.
You don't need me to tell you why I think they're a great band so I'm not sure why I'm doing it. This is hardly an essay. I haven't written anything for this newsletter in so long, but hey! I'm trying!
Last night I drove my dad's car to my best friend's parents' house and listened to PUP then I drove past my old high school and my high school boyfriend's house to my parents' house and I listened to PUP. I wrote this at a coffee shop in Chicago I frequented in college while listening to PUP. I don't feel confident about any choice I've ever made and I guess that's why I'm listening to PUP. Whatever.
*PUP's perfects albums are The Dream Is Over and Morbid Stuff. Joyce Manor's are Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired and Never Hungover Again.
Miranda Reinert is a music adjacent writer, zine maker, and law school drop out reluctantly based in Philadelphia. Follow me on Twitter to hear more how much I'm liking PUP in a super uninteresting way, I guess: @mirandareinert. You may also just send me small bits of money at @miranda-reinert on venmo if you want. As always, thanks for reading!