Welcome to the revamped From the Vinyl Vault where each week Frankie and Michael will share a record from their collections and talk about its importance to them and alt music! Let's get started!
PUP - PUP - (2014) - Frankie
Punk is alive and well in Toronto natives PUP. This four-piece garage punk band released their self-titled debut album in late 2013, four months after changing their name from Topanga, as in the wonderfully weird character from Disney’s Boy Meets World. PUP, the abbreviation of “Pathetic Use of Potential,” keeps the spirit of punk alive in ten brilliant songs. Lead vocalist and guitarist Stephen Babcock pulls inspiration for lyrics from life in the Canadian suburbs and the time the band spent cutting their teeth in bars and basements.
I unfortunately didn’t know of PUP until the summer of 2016, when I stood all day at the barrier of one of the stages at Promowest Fest in Columbus. Ultimately, I was there to see Brand New for the very first time and my feet were planted solidly. Playing just before Brand New, these four guys walk on stage, ready their instruments, and the singer speaks into the microphone “We’re PUP, and we’re gonna play as much punk music as we can in the next 30 minutes” after which they did just that. I was astounded and I knew I had just found a new favorite.
In true punk fashion, PUP is meant to sound as close to a live performance as possible, all feedback and cracking voices intended. It was produced, recorded, and mixed by Dave Schiffman, who has produced albums for Weezer, Rage Against The Machine, and Anti-Flag. When Schiffman expressed interest, the members all ceremoniously quit their day jobs and announced the ludicrous plan to play 200 shows in their first year. They met and exceeded that goal, playing over 250 shows over the course of multiple North American, European, and Australian tours, both alongside other bands like The Menzingers, and headlining. The boys also played festivals along the route including South By Southwest, Riot Fest, and a stint on Warped Tour.
The string of music videos generated from their debut album is also incredibly impressive. Six of ten songs would become music videos, ranging from silly animation to hauntingly cinematic. First released was the incredible video for “Reservoir” depicting an exaggerated version of a live set in which the band members literally rock so hard that they are maimed by their own instruments, but the keep playing anyway. The video was shot in an actual venue space in Toronto, and was so rowdy and true to nature that the band members and extras left with very real bruises and scrapes. “Lionheart” came next, a fast-forwarded recording of a basement party, Babcock depicted in the beginning and end with 40 oz. beers tapped to both hands, a celebration of sorts with keg stands and sparklers. It was reportedly shot in a four-hour span in a house basement filled with props for the upcoming video for “Guilt Trip” and was painstakingly edited down to 3 minutes. “MABU” is one of my favorites, a musical documentary about the preparation and destruction of Babcock’s Toyota Camry in a local demolition derby, with a surprise appearance of a chameleon he would later adopt and then even later write a tribute piece to on their second album, but more on that another time. “Guilt Trip” is a cinematic masterpiece, in my opinion. Staring young Finn Wolfhard in one of his earliest roles (we’re talking pre-Stranger Things) and a collection of other young actors, it’s a fictional portrayal of the band’s creation, as the kids portray the different band members, Wolfhard as a young Babcock. “Dark Days” is a hilariously animated recount of some of the bands worst moments during their long tour sprint, while the rather upbeat song speaks of an optimistic outlook for the road ahead with lyrics like “This winter hasn’t been so rough/ Oh it was cold but still it wasn’t cold enough to freeze the blood beneath my spine/ And at least I survived.” Last but not least, “Back Against The Wall” is a compilation of footage from their Everything Gets Worse North American tour in late 2014.
I just got my pressing of PUP yesterday at Magnolia Thunderpussy, a record store in Columbus, Ohio. It is a standard black re-print. I’ll encourage you to pick up or listen to this album any way you can by quoting a message left by the band on the inner cover: “if you like it, for fuck’s sake, burn a copy for your friend, stepdad, and water-polo coach. If they like it, drag ‘em to a show.”
Ryan Adams - Easy Tiger - (2007) - Michael
If you ask many fans, the fate of alt-country for years has rested on the shoulders of Jeff Tweedy and Ryan Adams, and rightfully so. What Adams represented was something unique, once he broke from Whiskeytown, he was the solo singer songwriter making an impact. All of his band situation since have not been situations of equal authority over the music (yes not even The Cardinals). Adams vaulted himself to stardom not only through his antics off stage, but through his masterful songwriting ability and his penchant to churn out amazing album after amazing album in a short span of time (most of the time in his heyday, he was averaging an album every 1-2 years).
While I knew of Ryan Adams before I got Easy Tiger, I didn't fall in love with his music until after I had. This album is such a journey, not meant to be divvied out in one song chunks, but rather meant to be consumed in one sitting. I always say something to the effect of "cover to cover" when I put this record on, because that's what's going to happen.
I also discovered this album back in the time where I still had the dream of being a musician and it influenced my guitar playing style to this day. Hammer-ons and pull-offs are essential to my playing, similarly to how Ryan does them in his rhythm. This album re-shaped who I was as a guitar player, from some guy who was not good enough to play lead trying to do just that, to some guy who could sing pretty well and play a hell of a rhythm guitar. That became my zone and that was fine by me. That dream is long gone now, but that improvement I gained at guitar has been essential in this venture.
Some of my favorite tracks from the album include "Two", "Everybody Knows", "Oh My God, Whatever, Etc." and "Two Hearts". This album saw Adams' again leaning into his alt-country roots to great success. To this day many people will say Gold or Heartbreaker is their favorite album. For my money, give me Easy Tiger every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Nothing against those albums, it's just that good.
I actually got this pressing of Easy Tiger at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. It is the clear orange edition. I would encourage you to listen to this album on vinyl as the music just lends itself to that format. If this is your first venture into Ryan Adams or if you've just missed this album, it's a great place to start.
What are some of your favorite records from your vinyl vault? We'd love to hear your stories and see pictures of your collections!