Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

PAWS - Youth Culture Forever

"Youth Culture Forever"

Release date: 02 June 2014
Paws YCF
29 May 2014, 02:57 Written by Jon Putnam
Regardless of what may come of PAWS’ sophomore album release, Youth Culture Forever, in 2014, the band will at least have the notoriety of the being the David to Morrissey’s Goliath in the spat over Moz’s alleged cancellation request of PAWS’ adjacent show.

PAWS’ reaction to the situation was swift, direct, expletive-filled, and brash. From my experience, it’s a Scottish thing; of course, it’s also an early 20s thing. It’s no surprise, then, that the band’s approach on YCF reflects these same qualities. We’re treated to healthy doses of the ol’ fuckety-fuck-fuck bomb – “Erreur Humaine”s rueful “One must never go back / and fuck with the past”; “Someone New”s bitter “My heart is not a fucking toy”(!); “Alone”s double dose of “Fuck you if you think I’m too young / to think that I might not know another one” and “Fuck what the others think.”

PAWS’ LP debut, 2012’s Cokefloat, was a giddy, hook-laden affair, truthfully maybe a bit slight at times, but its sheer pixie-stick rush undeniable. In comparison, YCF is endowed with a woe-is-me seriousness; surely the point of peppering it with these big boy words is to drive that point home. Forgive the pun as this is the band’s second album, it is a bit pandering and sophomoric, but lead singer Philip Taylor is only 22, as he attests, and he’s been screwed over by some bird he had the hots for. As he sings on “Owls Talons Clenching My Heart”, “girl, I’m talking to you literally”, he’s just laying it out there; hey, been there done that, I’ve had my moments of beer-infused truthiness. So, while I was having a mostly difficult time getting into this, I began to think, “maybe I’m too old for this shit”, particularly since my decade on Taylor has offered me perspective enough to know his wallowing, post-breakup my-love-life-is-over-at-22 mope on “Alone” is bullshit.

You know what, though? That wasn’t it – while I am happily married now at 32 with a wonderful and wacky nearly two-year old, those goggle-eyed, fat-tongued moments of a decade ago still burn in the back of the mind, and I can dig where Taylor’s coming from. My problem with YCF is a problem that kids even two decades my junior would have – by and large, there’s just little to grab on to here, a letdown given its predecessor’s abundance of pop potential. “Alone” and “YCF” have Taylor aimlessly yowling over minimal backing, a setting that does not suit PAWS well, while “Erreur Humaine” and “Narcissist” cast themselves as backseat, refried Weezer fare. All is certainly not lost, though, as “Owls Talons Clenching My Heart” offers a worthy stab at balancing YCF’s moodiness with Cokefloat’s pop sensibilities. “Tongues” and “An Honest Romance” are the true winners as they recall PAWS’ last outing’s earworminess and augment it with YCF’s heavier emphasis on stomp and rumble. The latter tune may quite possibly sport one of the year’s best hooks and should soundtrack any sensible listener’s stumbling late night summer escapades.

While YCF unquestionably plays to the “difficult second album” stereotype and plants itself as a transitional effort in PAWS’ young catalog, and I don’t begrudge the band’s efforts at rewriting their script, even if much of it may fall flat, closer “War Cry” may hold the unlikely key to PAWS’ path forward. At nearly 12 minutes, it is clearly out of the band’s comfort zone and predictably uneven, though illustrates a heretofore improbable knack for stretching out. Taylor’s scream after declaring “won’t you / hear my / war cry” as he and his bandmates build the song into a swirling, piledriving behemoth over the remaining nine minutes packs volumes more bile and gravity in it than a mountain of swear words. Youth culture forever? In PAWS’ case, hopefully only in mind, not in practice.

Share article

Get the Best Fit take on the week in music direct to your inbox every Friday

Read next