It's hard not to be thankful that PAWS exist at times like these. It's summer 2016 and instead of gearing up for hedonism and sunshine, we're seemingly caught in a perpetual collective anxiety. The EU referendum, the threat of a man named after passing wind and general cultural malaise seems to be all anybody can be concerned with... What about all the great music coming out then?
Welcome PAWS, a Scottish punk trio who make exactly the kind of whip-smart rock'n'roll we should all be prescribed with a heady dose of. Existing fans have been singing their high praises for years, and for good reason: their 2012 debut Cokefloat! and it's louder (superior) 2014 follow up Youth Culture Forever easily rank as two of the best ramshackle guitar pop records in recent memory, so what happened next? Having toured themselves stupid with the likes of Japandroids and The Cribs, the trio luckily found a mutual fan in Mark Hoppus (don't groan, Blink-182 could pen a tune and you know it) who subsequently offered to produce their third album No Grace.
The result of the collaboration is a cracking 26-minute collection of life-affirming energy that screeches, rattles and wails from start to finish. For fear this might start to read like a overwrought PR release, let's cut to the point... if you're still reading after learning Mark Hoppus produced the record, good, because PAWS are anything but some disposable pop-punk throwback. Phillip Taylor's songwriting is honest, rousing and raw, evoking the same sense of primal comfort Dookie or Slanted & Enchanted may have done in your teen years.
Musically, early highlight 'N/A' doesn't sound dissimilar to J Mascis' early Nineties work with Dinosaur Jr. Driven by a steam roll of layered guitars and a killer drum line, it makes a fitting match against Taylor's anthemic request that you “be what you want want to be / don't be scared of being seen”, as of course, we are “all here reaping hell on earth” from birth till death together. 'Impermanent' lays claim to one of the simplest hooks on the record with a repeated wail of “we are all impermanent”; if anything, it boldly highlights the juxtaposition between the brick-wall confidence that adorns these recordings and the vulnerable self doubt that inspired them to begin with.
Having spent so much time away from his Glaswegian home with PAWS, Taylor has said the record ruminates that sense of yearning for home while appreciating the importance of company elsewhere. It's clear throughout No Grace that this sentimental detachment has come good on fuelling the band's musical unity; this isn't the sound of a band imploding from exhaustion, but that of a band ignited by companionship, talent and well sought inspiration.
While the band has clearly benefited from Mark Hoppus' slick touch and experience, don't expect it to sound like a major label pop-punk release – No Grace is raw, quick and dirty, just as rock 'n roll was always intended. Glorious stuff.
8Ben Philpott's Score