PAWS

No Grace

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    7
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Weary from years of constant touring, Glaswegian punk trio PAWS took a literal pause in their schedule, giving themselves a much needed break to reflect and write their next album. It's not an uncommon story for hardworking indie bands who, after a handful of D.I.Y. releases and way too many hours in the van, find themselves at a career crossroads. Their mettle effectively tested, some bands crack and call it a day while others gear up for one more all-or-nothing campaign to see what it nets them. In PAWS' case, they've chosen the latter path, enlisting blink-182's Mark Hoppus to produce their massive-sounding third LP, No Grace. While elements of pop-punk were present on their first two records, their allegiances seemed a bit more in line with noisy '90s stalwarts like Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth. A lo-fi sonic patina kept their punk cred intact, even if their strong melodicism and pop sense suggested they could be destined for a wider audience. With Hoppus at the helm, PAWS have tightened up considerably and the beefy production value he brings to No Grace suits them well. Highlights like "Impermanent" and "Asthmatic" are bold arena-sized cuts whose mix of desperation and carpe diem play well to the back of the room. While the added mainstream polish, hooky melodies, and guidance from blink-182's bassist do make No Grace sound distinctly like a big pop-punk record, PAWS' attitude here is ultimately more sober as they trade in some of the wit and exuberance of their earlier outings for more adult-oriented themes. Still, all bands must grow, and PAWS' big gamble pays off as they turn a corner artistically with this streamlined and steadfast effort.

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