Nearly two years to the date I dragged my sorrily hungover body to Manchester’s Castle Hotel (or as I unaffectionately refer to it, that b*****d corridor with a bar), where I would watch three almost equally broken Glaswegians going by the name of PAWS play their final show of a ten-week tour. And three glorious summers ago in Edinburgh’s now dearly departed Picture House, I caught a glimpse of them instigating a riotous crowd as part of Haddow Fest. So having gone through a Summer without them, it’s rather apt that a band that have punctuated two of my greatest musical summers are now making a return for a third, in the form of new album, No Grace.
This is the band’s third album which, according to the press release, is “the gravel-throated affirmation of that ‘do it or die’ attitude… It’s the song you sing when you get kicked in the teeth… It’s the sound of the pure fucking energy and joy that comes from making something with your whole heart.” Bold testaments indeed.
Produced by Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus, it’s most definitely a move away from the New York-garage style that defined their previous offering, Youth Culture Forever. That album name may be more prevalent here than the album’s own. From the opening bars of title track ‘No Grace’, a song that at times is written in Memes, the bass drum is pronounced and faster, the guitar is pounded with ‘no fucks given’ strokes, the vocals are delivered with the snarl of a curled lip. Hoppus’s pop-punk influence is more than apparent. It’s a sound so familiar, yet PAWS twist it to make it their own. The title track by the way, is wonderful.
The band run the risk at times of making a Blink album. Gone is the previously adopted muffled vocal in favour of fully exposing Phillip Taylor’s voice. This is something which I much preferred when seeing them live, as the boy can really sing. However, gone with the muffler are the Weegie vowels, in favour of a slightly American inflection, and I must admit I missed the charm of the former. This particularly manifests itself on ‘Impermanent’, an otherwise wonderful upbeat critique on the disposability of modern life. The press release states that Hoppus has harnessed the band’s sound and pushed it harder, alas on certain parts it sounds like the sound is being resentfully forced into a US pop-punk mould they definitely do not suit.
That being said, this album does intact do everything it says on the tin. It’s the sound made by people who come back up fighting. Clarity embodies my favourite elements of this record, it’s both a reflection and a battle cry, played at the speed of a bullet train. Closing track ‘Asthmatic’ lyrically resonates with me as a grown up who’s not quite ready to quit my teenage ways, and musically for me is the truest to the boys’ previous sound – sharp, fast and melancholy. The band even get an instrumental moment in ‘Salt Lake’, something those of us who’ve seen them live will know they relish in; where their love of music and their talent really shines through.
From the emphatic claims of the press release to the complete change in style, No Grace contains many a fearless move from PAWS. But could we expect anything less from the guys who took on the wrath of Morrissey in their infancy and came out on top? Nope.
Welcome back into my life PAWS, I’ve missed you.
No Grace is out now via FatCat Records.