I’m at the album launch for PAWS debut album Cokefloat!, and we’ve just been treated to some comic relief courtesy of drummer Josh Swinney. “Everyone having a good time? ‘Cause if you’re not, I’ll come and get you, and make you have a good time”, growls a voice from behind the bass drum.
Thankfully, no one at the CCA needs to be forced to enjoy themselves tonight. The capacity crowd spend the duration of the set either singing along to every word, or crowd-surfing, and there’s nothing but good vibes floating around the venue. PAWS ability to play a mesmeric gig has never been in doubt though, having risen to prominence with little more than a series of delightful lo-fi cassette volumes and the buzz generated by gigging everywhere. An early blurb said the band were free to play ‘Bar Mitzvahs…Bathrooms‘, and they probably weren’t fucking about.
Cokefloat! is a different animal however. 13 tracks, recorded in a studio – how is this going to pan out? Well, you better read on – hadn’t you?
Firstly, Cokefloat!, feels like an album, and not like a collection of 13 tracks. Bookended by ‘Catherine 1956’ and ‘Poor Old Christopher Robin’, it’s a journey of sorts. The former is a touching tribute to singer Phillip Taylor’s mother, who passed away after a battle with cancer (Life goes on/you can’t live your life in fear/do something for me and get out of this town/there’s nothing for you here).
The latter is probably the best thing that the band have done in their short time, 5 minutes long, and a departure from the ‘Haribo Thrash’ mooted in a Skinny interview last summer, by the band themselves, I should add. It’s reminiscent of Blue Album/Pinkerton era Weezer, with a restrained verse that builds to the best chorus in an album of great choruses. Taylor sings, ‘Phillip stop crying, you’ve got to keep trying’ – there’s nothing overly metaphorical here, just raw emotion delivered honestly. It’s a show-stopping moment, disarming and uplifting.
What about the singles? ‘Jellyfish’ took the lead here – no surprises, it’s definitely the ‘poppiest’ track – like a sugar-coated Dinosaur Jr. Even better is Sore Tummy, which features a delightful guest vocal from Alice Costelloe of Big Deal. Propelled by Swinney’s offbeat percussion – the closest thing you’ll ever hear to a drum hook, it even gets to hog the limelight a bit at 2:07 – the clean(er) guitar tones and harmonies offer a stark contrast to the likes of ‘Bloodline’ – which delivers it’s message in around 2 minutes of real ferocity.
Elsewhere, I was absolutely ecstatic to see ‘Miss American Bookworm’ appear on Cokefloat!, after making it’s debut on Volume 1. The studio treatment has served it well, accentuating the power of the opening riff and the drums at the chorus – again terrific innovation from Swinney. ‘Bird inside Birdcage…’ pushes Christopher Robin for the best chorus of the album, and if they manage a third single from the record then this should be it – to call it infectious would be an understatement. So far so good, right?
Well, mostly. Maybe it’s the company they line up with, but ‘Homecoming’ and ‘Boregasm’ fall flat. The former is a distant cousin of Pavement’s ‘Kennel District’ – and musically it works, but the lyrics send a conflicting message. Boregasm starts promisingly, the guitars fly around like a kid on a bouncy castle – but somewhere around the chorus it gets a bit lost. The two are by no means bad songs – they’re just not as inspired as the rest of Cokefloat!
Harsh? Perhaps. Well a couple of words for the rest of the tracks. ‘Tulip’ was my favourite on listen one – in short it’s an absolute monster, the song on this record that sounds most like Nirvana – and that’s a great thing. Upon reading the inside of the CD, I see the song was co-written with Catherine Taylor, and it all comes together (Someone cares a lot for you, wherever you are). Live favourite ‘Winners Don’t Bleed’ is the penultimate track – a screamy behemoth that won’t get played on the radio, but is all the better for it. ‘Get Bent’, is even more of a departure than Christopher Robin. One man, a spanish guitar, some cheap keyboard, and lyrics about the decline of a family. It finds Taylor at his most defiant (Fuck you! I don’t need you anyway), and in a way it’s a suitable place to sum things up; strength in the face of adversity. Finally, big props to Rory Attwell (formerly of Test Icicles, who were brilliant), for bottling the energy of PAWS live show and translating it onto the record – no mean feat.
For a debut record, this is really impressive stuff. PAWS have turned the shit things in life into something positive, and while the album has it’s inconsistencies, weaker tracks, questionable lyrics, it’s completely outweighed by the positives, and the honesty. Nothing here is phoney, and while some lazy critics have suggested that this is nothing new musically (90s American Grunge regurgitated), theres enough versatility here to disprove that assessment. A record choc full of personality, and if you like your music served up nice and loud give it a spin, throw yourself about a bit. Otherwise we’ll have to force you to have fun.