PAWS – Youth Culture Forever
The disparity between the rest of the world’s taste and my own gets me down sometimes, but I think Paws might be the last band I really liked to come out of Scotland and actually achieve something. Their last album was great – joyous (assuming you didn’t listen to the words too closely) and exuberant, and a pretty accurate snapshot of the kind of energy, commitment and pop nous which made them such firm favourites up here, before relentless touring and the assistance of Fatcat Records introduced them to the rest of the world.
Oddly enough, for a band with such strong DIY instincts, their last album ended up sounding relatively polished. It worked just fine, but definitely emphasised the pop side of the band. This album is self-produced – a relatively bold decision, I suppose, for a fairly young band – and I have to confess I far prefer the sound. It’s denser and nastier and by the time the absolutely fucking awesome cello kicked in halfway through Alone I was pretty much punching the air with delight. In fact the whole van (I listened for the first time when on tour with one of our bands) pretty much all exchanged that ‘holy fuck, that is nasty‘ look in unison. But in a good way. A very good way.
As ‘difficult second albums’ go, in fact, this whole record pretty much laughs that whole cliché off as if the phrase had never been coined in the first place. Rather than difficult, this sounds like a band who have really worked out how they want to sound and gone about making a record of exactly that.
Oddly enough, though, I think that for all this is a better album than its predecessor Cokefloat, it may actually be a little less consistent. Tunes like Someone New and Give Up might be a bit lyrically obvious for my liking, and the trademark Paws arpeggiated chorus (whatever the technical term is) is perhaps a little too strong as well. That might actually be what makes these two of the standout pop songs on the album, but in personal terms they are possibly my least favourite.
To balance that, of course, there are some of the best songs Paws have written, not least the absolutely fantastic 1-2 which starts the album.That glee I experienced when I first heard the cello in Alone was matched when I heard Erreur Humaine as well. I’ve said it about Paws before, but it sounds quite a bit like the unfairly unremembered Marcy Playground. It’s followed by Tongues, a tune which is also relatively gentle by Paws standards, and between them they may not indicate revolution, but they definitely make it pretty clear that this is a band developing from their early material and pushing on into new territory.
When a band have a such a knack for sprightly pop tunes I am always keen to see them show that they can do more. Not that I underestimate the skill behind a good pop song of course, but if you can blend them with a bit more then you have a band with genuine longevity, and it looks like that’s what we’re seeing emerge here: a band with real depth and range.
The epic wig-out track seems to be becoming quite common amongst bands I like at the moment, and Youth Culture Forever ends with one: the rather excellent War Cry. It’s a proper beast of a song and ends with Paws doing what they do best – absolutely fucking going for it. After an album which brilliantly shows all the other strings they have to their bow, this song almost reads like and big fat fucking ‘I told you so’.
There’s something in the mentality of the band – although maybe just in Phil Taylor actually – which seems to be drawn disproportionately to the doubters and the obstacles of a musician’s life. For someone whose band is a pretty big success by comparison to most of their peers you still get the impression that just participating in the modern music industry is something they don’t really relish. What they do like, though, is making music, and by the time War Cry is over you get the impression that’s what is being said. Fuck all the other stuff, we’re a band, we make records and here is what we can do – stick that in your fucking pipe and smoke it.
After all the feelings of self-doubt and not particularly generous self-analysis expressed in the record it seems suitable to end it with something of a war cry. This is what we do, this is why we love it, and this is why I love them.
Paws play Glasgow tomorrow and the Wee Red Bar in Edinburgh on Saturday. If you can’t make it along to either of these shows you can buy your copy of the album here. You won’t regret it.