Punchy, Pop-Sensible Punk Rock Fits Well On Paws’ Third LP
I’m always on the hunt for the next great indie-rock album. Whether it’s sorting through Spotify playlists promising the big, “up and coming” acts, navigating the blogosphere trying to identify the praise, or rummaging through releases from the past few years trying to find some greatness that evaded me, it’s a never ending search. Much of this comes out of the fact that so many rock bands today are indistinguishable from each other, each boasting a similar variety of angst that never quite hits where it needs to. The flooring leads and dense, fuzzy production underwhelm; the songwriting grinds as it tries to form. Sure, Mourn came through on the attitude-ridden Ha Ha, He and Car Seat Headrest delivered one of the best punkish, low-fi rock records in recent memory, but releases like this are far and few. In this cycle of safe-playing acts that don’t quite hit the mark, Paws couldn’t have come through at a better time.
This Glasglow-based rock outfit came onto my radar with their 2014 release Youth Culture Forever: a punchy, punk-spirited record that kept it’s angsty attitude intact alongside it’s slick pop sensibilities. Songs like an “Honest Romance” and “Owls Talons Clenching My Heart” retain an early Strokes charm with distant, reverb-ridden vocals layered underneath poppy guitar leads that practically melt together, and this smooth integration keeps the album memorable from start to finish. Luckily, Paws keep this temperament for their follow-up No Grace.
The band’s driving pop sensibilities remain intact on No Grace, but they enlist a far more driving fleet of punk rock temperaments to make the songs more teeth-kicking and brash this time around. With Mark Hoppus handling the production duties and the band sounding tighter than ever, Paws shine, soar, and deliver driving, heartening songs that melt in your head with each passing note. On the lead single “No Grace”, the band delivers a convicted, overzealous anthem that radiates youthful nihilism via punchy, scuzzy power-chord driven leads and angsty declarations such as “No grace in a future without a fever”.
These songs are short, sweet, and filled to the brim with attitude. “Gild The Lily” radiates like a fuzzy commentary on youth, backed by walls of ferocious, distorted guitar leads that don’t let up. “Salt Lake”, an instrumental track, is played through a Sonic Youth level of distorted turning, harnessing fuzzy abrasion that creates a fill-in-the-blank kind of angst; a melody that can be applied to a cluster of different temperaments. “Clarity” carries along with the ferocity of a drunken romp through the streets; a recklessness voiced by two guitars that play off each other with precision and attitude.
The best thing about No Grace is that it never seems self-indulgent. There are no unnecessary song lengths, overcalculated guitar solos that overstay their welcome, or expressions that seem unnecessary. The album is tight, convicted, and angstily-heartening through it’s youthful voicings. What we have is a band who knows what they want to sound like, what they’re here to say, and how they’re gonna say it without anything gratuitous hiding in the cracks. Instead, the band fills those spaces with a charismatic brand of pop-sensibile punk rock that feels stylish in all the best ways.
Listen to: “No Grace”, “Gild The Lily”, “Clarity”
No Grace is out June 17th via Fat Cat Records.