Published Jun 20, 2016Scotland's PAWS fight cynicism on all fronts with their third effort No Grace, a moderate shift from the swingy, mid-tempo garage-rock they played on 2014's Youth Culture Forever and 2012's slightly more abrasive Cokefloat! The Scottish trio's new record will sit nicely on the shelf next to catchy punk bands like Beach Slang or Cheap Girls, owing at least in part to production by mutual fan Mark Hoppus.
But PAWS haven't gone the way of polished pop-punk. Rather, it's more of a spit-shined sound, with fuzzy but folky chords, savoury harmonies and some big choruses that'll draw fans of Japandroids.
No Grace has a raw energy and a youthful vigour that carries the songs' themes of tempered optimism born of harsh realism. "You don't even know who you are yet / Cut the crap and give until you've got no more," singer Phillip Taylor urges on the title track, as he opens an album that's all about getting knocked down, picking yourself back up and taking your next swing.
PAWS bark orders at the self-doubters with uplifting moxie. "Be what you want to be / Don't be afraid of being seen," Taylor suggests on "N/A." On "Clarity," he offers an encouraging reminder to those who feel broken and defeated: "Don't numb the part that wants you to feel pain / You'll be grateful for it someday."
The bare-bones simplicity found here works wonders when it makes way for serious earworms, as it does on a tune like the lively "Impermanent." It's less effective when the melody falls a bit flatter, as on "Gone So Long" or among the album's somewhat lagging final third.
The record's three biggest standouts, at its beginning, middle and end — "No Grace," the rich, melodious "Gild the Lily" and the bittersweet "Asthmatic" — are so on the mark they make up for its weaknesses, though. No Grace is a short and concise album that's quick on its points: do your best, don't give up and have some fun. (Fat Cat)