Album Reviews

PAWS – No Grace


It’s the summer months and you all know what that means: it’s time for the latest slew of pop-punk records to stretch out their heavily tattooed arms and release their latest diatribe on the pains of being misunderstood just in time for the Summer festival season. Bring on the Warped Tour, yo! So amongst this crop which includes the likes of Modern Baseball, The Hotelier and White Lung, where does Scotland’s PAWS’ latest LP, No Grace, fit into this new crop of punkers? Well, it’s a record that seems to believe that the best way to go forward is to hurl yourself backward into the past, specifically to the West Coast of the US in the year 2000.

No Grace is a piece that doesn’t inspire much of anything. While not quite a dead end of an album, it’s definitely a cul-de-sac; there is something there, but you can’t go further. Chunks of it are energetic and bouncy and have this unwavering forward momentum that makes them quite enjoyable. ‘Impermanent’ and ‘Gild The Lily’ are good songs with solid hooks that keep the listener engaged. These, in conjunction with the album’s welcomely brisk runtime, help the proceedings avoid veering into an overlong and languid territory. What doesn’t help that though, are the disc’s main reference points.

PAWS love pop punk. More specifically, they love the kind of major label pop punk that the likes of The Offspring, Jimmy Eat World and, most prominently, blink-182 built their careers around. Large strokes of the No Grace have these indisputable ties to the aforementioned bands above that at times sounds less like homage and more rigid devotion to their set formulas. Every song has that 4/4 beat, chunky mid-range bass, a cheeky populist hook and an anthemic chorus that manages to be both alarmingly catchy while still lacking any distinct identity. This script they’re reading from was a calling card for that whole scene and to the band’s credit, they do craft acceptable pieces using this format. But they do nothing other than that. Most of what’s here is fluffy and superfluous and trying to delve deeper into the LP is like diving into the shallow end. So much of the record lacks character, it feels like a cover band doing the best cuts from the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater soundtracks.

A big part of that lack of identity comes from the producer, Mark Hoppus. He doesn’t find that spark that works best with them and instead gives them the same flourishes that marked the +44 record and the last two blink releases; whatever PAWS want to be it’s all being filtered through this view. The sound is noisy, but a kind controlled noisy which gives it this toothless feeling, devoid of bite. Everything is buried under layer after layer of instrumentation until it blurs into this indecipherable blob of distortion and misplaced, wasted post-adolescent aggression. One of the few points on the album that does work is the finisher ‘Asthmatic’, which given the space to breathe, rises and falls in an appropriate and satisfying way. When they do have that little bit of extra to play with the band do show a glimmer of something more. While this, their third LP, doesn’t really give much to suggest to they will become the stadium fillers their idols were, it does give a hope that something interesting still to come from them. Will Murphy