Pop punkers Paws have reached the sort of crossroads where they had to give up or go shiny. So they've enlisted the Blink 182 producer and made the sort of big pop thing that will make or break them. It's angsty skateboard-friendly pop rock with plenty of tunes to thrash your head around to enthusiastically.
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Bless them. Radiohead have just put five hundred records in front of our faces and Paws are here, incredulous, imploring us to notice them like the oldest sibling trying to compete with the excitement of a new-born baby. Shouldn’t be too hard: ‘No Grace’ is fast, driving pop-punk hoping to enshrine its hooks with the production pointers of Mark Hoppus, a major dude who knows a thing or two about making catchy overwrought songs in and for Blink 182 — as well as +44, if you wanna go there.
What ‘No Grace’ amounts to is actually a contemporary emo album, the kind of pop-punk it’s acceptable and even culturally beneficial for adults to like (thanks, Ian Cohen!). “N/A” sounds like a lush, blissed-out version of a Cheap Girls song, with the same whinged vocal melodies over a mix of distortion and acoustic strums, all amidst a clearer and altogether washy production. “Impermanent” starts with some real old school mainstream pop-punk stylisation — a vocal out on its own with a simple chord sequence — before a loose, sludgy bass line grows the song into something like Motion City Soundtrack bleeding into Pity Sex.
The riffs are probably the best bit, though often they’re pushed aside for vocal melodies that could be stronger and simpler — “Complete Contempt” feels a bit busy in this department, with an overwrought vocal line travelling through different bits of dramatisation, but the simple guitar figures make it digestible and light. The instrumentation Paws are playing with — simple punk chord progressions and a loose-sounding but ultimately tight rhythm section — is over familiar, but it’s the production that takes it to new places. With its weirdly distanced but fairly lucid recording, ’No Grace' feels like pop-punk happening from a space station.
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