Album Review: PAWS - Cokefloat! (FatCat Records)
How do I start a review of this album then? Anyone that knows me will know that I'd stake my house on these guys releasing a brilliant debut album. I've been to see them about seven times (number eight will occur later today, as I write, at the album launch in Glasgow). Sometimes the sets have descended into chaos, once they were minus the drummer and had to hav a hastily arranged replacement brought in. Each time, including those mentioned they have been bursting with energy and raw power, delivering fierce live shows that have sometimes been divisive. There is no question to the talents of this band as a trio, or to the songwriting ability of Philip Taylor, the band's guitarist and singer. Can they capture the energy and enthusiasm from the confines of a studio? Read on to find out.
The album opens with 'Catherine 1956'. Starting with Philip's off-kilter, laid back vocals, it's an homage to Philip's Mum, who passed away recently. (One of his guitars has Catherine written across it, while his home run DIY tape label is called Cath Records). Listen to the lyrics of the song and it's impossible not to be moved emotionally, whilst also realising what a gifted songwriter Philip is. Bearing your relationship so openly, particularly when it's tinged with such heartache is a brave thing to do and I find it inspiring that he uses this as a force to drive his ambitions as a musician. There's also the small matter of the song musically and how much it rocks. Josh and Matt do a fine job on drums and bass respectively, working in perfect harmony adding some backbone to the song as Philip lays his feeling bare. A beautiful, honest and rocking opener that would grace any record.
'Jellyfish' will be well known to anyone that follows the band. Opening with a nice, simple guitar riff before an explosive drumbeat and pumping bass guitar come in. The fills are of the machine gun variety, flying past at top speed, while the bass sounds excellent, wandering up and down nicely. The energy form the live show is there but what the studio manages to do it balance it all nicely. You can hear Matt's bass clearly, while Josh kills his drum kit with every bar. Philip's guitar screeches and screams throughout this exhilarating track. The bass dominates on 'Homecoming', sounding nice and distorted. It's a song about bullying from what I can gather (thanks for the punches of encouragement), the tempo is good and the songs moves forward at a good pace. The drums aren't quite as rapid this time, with lots of cymbal crashes while Philip's guitar wouldn't sound out of place on a Sebadoh or Pavement song.
Another "oldie", 'Pony' starts with a simple guitar line before bass and drums come in. It's all fairly contained initially, but you know it's coming. The drums and lead guitar signal the increase in intensity for a few bars, before it all settles down into that nice rhythm again with matt's bass underpining the song. That soft-soft-LOUD approach works so well on this track though. The drums are powerful, while the guitar gets more and more urgent. You can literally picture Philip writhing around the studio. There's a break with a brilliant bass line before Josh kicks into a steady rhythm. Once again though, they force the song further, squeezing more and more from it. I just love the drum fills, followed on the next bar by a BOOM-BOOM. Great stuff.
Another nod to Philip's Mum comes on 'Bloodline'. (I know that you'll never know/I got your nose/I got your eyes). The pace of the song is frenetic. These guys seem ot have boundless energy and unleash it in two, three and four minute chunks. The song is barely started and it's over but it leaves you breathless as it never lets up for one moment of it's 125 second duration. 'Boregasm' kics off with a big bass line, before settling into the song. It reminded me a little of Mazes at times, It's a feel good, high tempo number which reminded me a little of Mazes at times. The guitar sounds more upbeat on this track and less angular while the rhythm section is a bit more jaunty. 'Sore Tummy' sees Philip joined by Alice Costelloe of Big Deal (a band PAWS have covered previously). The dynamic is changed with the additional vocals, but not in a negative way. Far from it in fact. The vocals still have a slacker feel to them, but the song has an interesting new dynamic with the addition of Alice Costelloe. You still have the tape hiss in the background but the drums are a bit more contained and the bass more prominent. It's a really good progression for the song and seems to fit really well in the album.
The tempo is slowed way down on 'Get Bent'. An acoustic guitar staggers around while Philip rails at someone from a past life. (Well fuck you I don't need you anyway). Another thing I love about this band is their brutal honesty. It's refreshing to hear about life, warts and all, about growing up in dull towns and about death - all laid out in heart wrenching detail. Not a lot of the music I hear has half this honesty in it and it's much weaker when measured against these songs for me. While there's no denying the life in the songwriting, it's also good to remember the music. 'Tulip' gets going in a high gear from the off. A nice guitar line, god high tempo drums and an utterly pulsating bassline get the juices flowing nicely. Just when you find your groove, Philip unleashes his primal roar. Every other guitar band should just quit now. That bassline is enough to get you looking for a cheap guitar on eBay. It's brilliant.
The rapid pace continues of 'Miss American Bookworm'. Flying out of the blocks this track never lets up, bar from short moments of calm. I say calm, the drums are still machine-gun fast. The guitars just take a small breather. It's another example of a frenetic, catchy sub-three minute song. They make it look so easy. If 'Catherine 1956' is my favourite PAWS song (it is), then 'Bird Inside Birdcage, Ribcage Inside Bird' is sitting at number two. This song is so ridiculously catchy it should require a prescription to listen to it. The tempo of the rhythm section, the vocal and the lead guitar all conspire to make me want to jump around my living room or sing along at full volume in the car. At the very least I scream along with yet another primal road around the 2:40 mark. Superb stuff and without labouring the point, easily as good as any band in the UK right now for me.
As the album draws to a conclusion, the penultimate track 'Winner's Don't Bleed' leads me to believe the band are intent on exploding your head by going all guns blazing. The rapid tempo is again infuriatingly catchy. The drums boom away at top speed, while the guitar sounds great chopping away, pausing now and then to scream like the man wielding it. Alongside, Matt's bass flies along. It's breathtaking and when the song stops suddenly you're almost as breathless as they must have been. The album closes with the longest song, 'Poor Old Christopher Robin'. Initially a steady tempo, it's not long before the sedate pace ends with a foot stomping on an effects pedal and the guitar shrieks into life. It shows another facet to the construction of the songs. It's not all 100mph - they can do the slow burners equally as well.
For me this is a stunning debut. There is nothing here but great songs. The personal nature of them is something I can relate to from my own experiences and this is what draws me to this band almost as much as the music. PAWS are a band that will go far. Easy to say that now I hear you yell, which is fair. They've had airlay on Radio 1, 6 Music and with the signing to FatCat their stock is constantly on the rise. Based on this album, their live shows and the three of them as people it's the very least they deserve. You can order the album from the FatCat website, or from your local record shops.