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Paw: Dragline (Expanded)

If ever there was a word which proves music genres are futile, then it's "Grunge". Ask most people who the main proponents of that "sound" were/are and most likely they'd tell you, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. Well excuse me but those three bands really have very little in common, unless you count geography and timing. Hence when people call Paw a Grunge act, it makes me ever so slightly tetchy...

A good friend had introduced me to Paw back in 1993 when their debut album Dragline was released, but as a member of the Melodic Rock against Grunge resistance, I hadn't really taken much notice, their '95 release Death To Traitors pretty much passing me by as well. Then I was, against my wishes, persuaded to catch the band live on stage in Glasgow and.....BOOM! They were superb - controlled aggression and ramshackle precision resulting in a performance which simply steamrollered all in attendance and left us feeling as though the four members of the band (I didn't know their names at the time) were 10 feet tall. Hence I quickly scurried to find out what I'd missed and man was I impressed.

The interesting loner notes, courtesy of Malcolm Dome, tell the story of how Paw came to be, the clamouring of labels as their demo caused all types of million-seller calculations to be made and then their slow demise as a collection of circumstances saw fame and fortune slip away. One thing's for sure, the music wasn't at fault and still, over two decades later, Dragline is quite superb. You may call it Grunge, I'll suggest that a mix of melody, anger, melancholy and brute force bring everything from Husker Du and Neil Young, to The Lemonheads and good old Heavy Hard Rock into focus and make it Paw. Add a little more groove and even the sort of Stonery Rock which Clutch have made such a success and this band's influences were very wide and extremely varied. Either way it was perfect for its day and it is still a mystery why the Grunge masses (yeah, OK, the Grunge faithful should have loved these guys) and the Alternative Rock crowd didn't lap this band up.

Right from the throat ripping rush of "Gasoline" it's plain that Dragline is a mighty beast, beautiful clean guitars lining up against gutsy outbursts of riff and tumbling six string assaults, howling vocals which are clean as a whistle one minute, rich with grime and dirt the next and drums that simply attack the senses while holding the whole thing together. "Sleeping Bag" introduces a little more melody and marries it to an even rougher vocal to scintillating effect, while the album's "big moment" arrives in the shape of "Jessie" where roaming bass and a strangulated vocal make way for utterly irresistible melodies and hooks, before a pedal-steel smashes into view straight out of left field.

Singer Mark Hennessy is a subtle, yet outlandish deliverer of stories of the heart and the every day, while guitarist and main songwriter Grant Fitch has such an easy ability to stack huge barrages of guitar against intricate sections and full on melancholy that he oft amazes with his turn on a sixpence style. Add in an expert rhythm section and "Pansy" rumbles with intent while "Lolita" pulls all but Hennessy's vocals in from the edge to be just as edgy as anything else on show.

Five bonus tracks add genuine value, the initially vinyl only "I Know Where You Sleep" every bit as good as the rest of the album, and the acoustic reworking of "Jessie" somehow more unsettling than its electric counterpart.

Paw would go on to release the equally excellent Death To Traitors, before a third album, Home Is A Strange Place, would be so poorly promoted in the UK that a genuine fan like myself only found out about its existence ten or so years later. Is it any wonder they didn't last much longer? Paw deserved much better and Dragline proves it so – don't let it pass you by a second time!

Hopefully Cherry Red will see fit to reissue Death To Traitors and Home Is A Strange Place as well...


Track Listing
1. GASOLINE 
2. SLEEPING BAG
3. JESSIE 
4. THE BRIDGE
5. COULDN'T KNOW
6. PANSY
7. LOLITA
8. DRAGLINE 
9. VERONICA 
10. ONE MORE BOTTLE 
11. SUGARCANE 
12. HARD PIG 
BONUS TRACKS
13. SUICIDE SHIFT
14. SLOW BURN 
15. I KNOW WHERE YOU SLEEP
16. JESSIE (ACOUSTIC VERSION)
17. IMAGINARY LOVER

Added: February 8th 2015
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: Dragline at Cherry Red
Hits: 3026
Language: english

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