Review: No Paws - "Healthy Men"

No Paws - Healthy Men
(2012 Family Time)
"Deceptively simple...mesmerizing[ly] mechanical"

Not unlike The Cure's 1985 album Head on the Door, No Paws' recent LP, Healthy Men, is a great example of how feelings like desperation and grief can strangely, yet beautifully be conveyed through the medium of joyous pop. As if carefully brewing a magic potion from an ancient text, the Californian quartet meticulously follow and rarely stray from a formula of chugging, post-punk guitar and chiming, video game-like synths. Such a sound can be deceptively simple, yet sometimes, the most forward music can be the most striking.

On songs like the album's standout track, "Failings", the instrumentation is beautifully robotic, the drumming metronomic, the guitars and synths hitting notes in time with pinpoint accuracy. As if watching the gears turning inside a clock tower, there is a mesmerizing mechanical effect created, yet such a trance will be quickly broken as Sam Woods' Robert Smith-esque delivery creates a contrastingly emotional effect as he nearly screams the song's vehement chorus. "Failings" is all-too-brief at just over two minutes, but that just might be the secret to its power. It's the kind of song that grabs hold of you, refusing to be forgotten. "Lacerate Wildly", (a clever tribute to the Smiths with that title), features a pleasant male/female call-and-response vocal, something I've always loved since first hearing The Human League's "Don't You Want Me", and a lovely sense of dreaminess. Healthy Men is quite the album, and fans of Wild Nothing and practically any 80s new wave band will dig this.