PAWS – Youth Culture Forever (FatCat Records)
CD / DL / LP
It’s been roughly two years since Glasgow based three-piece PAWS released their debut album Cokefloat!, on FatCat Records. They’ve now just released their second album which, for Louder Than War, Steve Mcgillivray reviews below.
In-between Paws‘ first and second albums there’s been a line-up change with bassist Matthew Scott leaving to pursue other interests and Ryan Drever coming on board. Alongside that has been a relentless touring schedule, with the band gathering a good following in the UK and the USA, in particular. Now comes the unavoidable cliché of the difficult second album, in this case Youth Culture Forever, the band’s second release on FatCat Records.
The album opens with ‘Erreur Humaine’ and for fans of Cokefloat!, it may seem a touch sombre and broody. It doesn’t take long for Phil Taylor’s guitar to ramp up though, accompanied by forceful drums and bass. The inclusion of strings give the track a nice depth and richness, while the track in general follows the tried and tested soft-soft-hard formula that PAWS pull off so well. There’s also evidence of Taylor’s excellent self-examining songwriting when he laments “Just 22 and I feel like I’m through”. The tempo is lifted on ‘Tongues’, helped largely by Josh Swinney’s booming drums. There’s a nice homebrew feel to the production here and throughout the album, with the comforting sound of fuzz and tape hiss. There’s more gut-wrenching honesty from Taylor on ‘Something New’, not taking kindly to seeing a former flame with someone else. The stuttering rhythm gives the track a bit of an edge but for me one of the main strengths of the band are the lyrics and when Taylor exposes himself they seem to shine, not only here but elsewhere on the album.
One of the real standout tracks, endorsed by none other than Simon Pegg on Twitter, is ‘Owls Talons Clenching My Heart’. The song is dripping in fuzz and skips along beautifully with a killer tempo led by a brilliant rhythm section, with Ryann Drever’s bass sounding great.. The drumming especially is gripping and seems to grab you and drag you along for the ride. How to follow that up? ‘Give Up’ simply goes for the blow-your-ears-off approach. It’s a rollicking tune that will make you want to sing along badly in your car (or is that just me?).The bass and drums pound you to bits and just when you’re really getting into it it just stops. Exhillirating. It’s perhaps a relief when the tempo slows down on ‘Alone’. The overall feel here is that of a lament. It’s a haunting, yet beautiful song with some great, heart-tugging vocal work from Taylor. The soul is laid bare again, also. “He’s got a gun/he likes the taste of metal in his mouth/he’s not the only one”. Just when he’s laid it all out there the band come in with a abng, accompanied by some stirring strings.
‘An Honest Romance’ again changes the tempo again. There’s a lighter feel after the previous track, but the bass and drums till feel nice and meaty. There’s a good chorus, but the song excells on the verses with another track that will have you singing along. ‘Narcissist’ flies out the traps with the rhythm section again thumping along with a really good tempo. It reminds me a little of early Nirvana and at around two minutes long it may be short, but it never lets up. The tempo stays high on ‘Let’s All Go’. Josh Swinney really goes for it and there’s some great guitar work towards the end of the track. We even get an instrumental track in ‘Great Bear’. The feel of this is the guys just having a jam and a mess around and I mean that with the greatest respect as the track is great. There’s a sense of power to the track and the false ending packs a good punch.
The penultimate song is the title track (in acronym form) ‘YCF’. The pace is slow and the song has a real stripped back feel to it, reminding me of the early PAWS demos. The layers are peeled back to expose the beating heart again. The vocal sounds a little distorted, perhaps reflecting Taylor’s feeling and attitude when he returns to what he used to consider his home. Musically it may seem a little bereft for some but it really showcases the songwriting again and the vocal delivery is perfect for the pared down sound. Where ‘YCF’ goes for sheer emotion, the final track ‘War Cry’ simply goes for epic. It begins slowly, a little hauntingly and with lots of background hiss and there’s a definite feel of it gathering power and building inexorably to some climax. When the instruments join together in that first outburst it’s almost disappointing when it doesn’t explode but there’s plenty reward for the patient listener as the song settles into an almost menacing prowl before Taylor unleashes the war cry the name promised. It’s a long track at almost 12 minutes but it’s also monumental in its delivery. The guitar weaves away underneath the bass and drums put together some nice sequences but all through the song you end up in awe of its sheer power and scope. I was instantly transported to a dingy, dark venue feeling the power rattle in my chest. It literally blew me away. Even though it’s a pretty long song, I instantly hit repeat wanting to immerse myself in it again. It’s a brilliant ending to a great album.
Youth Culture Forever is a step forward for PAWS. While they’ve honed their talents with almost non-stop touring, they’ve clearly grown as a band. The album is beautifully paced, almost following the soft-soft-hard template for some songs over the course of the album’s running order. Again, as with their debut Cokefloat! A real standout aspect is Philip Taylor’s brutally honest songwriting. There’s a weight to his words that’s borne of experience and that makes me want to listen to what he says in ways I often don’t get with other music. All in all this is an album that deserves to be heard widely
Paws have a couple or four UK dates slated in for later this month and a load more further afield (mainly the US) in the rest of the year (see link to website below for more on these.)
- 23.08 Doune, GB – Doune The Rabbit Hole Festival, GB
- 24.08 Edinburgh, GB – Electric Circus
- 30.08 Edinburgh, GB – Pale Imitation Festival @ Henrys Cellar Bar
- 31.08 London, GB – Tooting Tram & Social